2014 BJOL HOF Results

January 7, 2014
  
This year, ninety-one ballots were cast for the Bill James Online Hall-of-Fame. From a crowded pool of 32 candidates, the brilliant readers of the BJOL elected a record-setting five players to our group:
 
Player
Total
2014%
Greg Maddux
89
97.8%
Frank Thomas
88
96.7%
Tom Glavine
85
93.4%
Mike Mussina
71
78.0%
Lou Whitaker*
69
75.8%
 
These five players join thirteen previous entrants to the BJOL Hall-of-Fame:
 
2009- Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, and Alan Trammell
2010 – Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, and Mark McGwire
2011 – Jeff Bagwell
2012 – Edgar Martinez
2013 – Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens.
 
A few notes:
 
-Greg Maddux fell two votes short of joining Rickey Henderson as the only player to be unanimously elected to the BJOL Hall of Fame. His credentials are beyond reproach: four Cy Young Awards, four ERA titles, 355 career victories, a 3.16 ERA, and more Gold Gloves (18) than any player in baseball history.
 
-Tom Glavine, Maddux’s longtime teammate, was also elected by an overwhelming majority. His qualifications include two Cy Young Awards, 305 career victories, four Silver Slugger Awards, and ten All-Star appearances.
 
-The third pitcher elected was Mike Mussina: though he has fewer trophies than Maddux and Glavine, Mussina was reliably excellent pitcher, who spent his career pitching in the maelstrom of the American League East. He won seven Gold Glove Awards, and showed up on the Cy Young ballot in nine seasons. He retired with a career record of 270-153, and an ERA+ of 123.
 
-Frank Thomas, a strong candidate for the best hitter of the 1990’s, retired with a .301 career batting average, 521 homeruns, and 1704 RBI’s. A first baseman/designated hitter, The Big Hurt won two AL MVP Awards, and finished in the top-ten in the ballot eight times in his career. He is the White Sox all-time leader in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, doubles, homeruns, RBI, and walks.
 
-Finally, Lou Whittaker, joins his long-time keystone partner Alan Trammell in our Hall of Fame. The first write-in candidate added to the BJOL ballot, Sweet Lou was the premier second baseman of the 1980’s. Whitaker was a versatile player: an excellent defensive infielder who had plus power and good speed, and knew how to draw a walk. Though his counting stats are not astonishing, Whittaker’s career rWAR of 74.8 rates behind just five second basemen in baseball: Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Joe Morgan, Rod Carew, and Charlie Gehringer.
 
For their accomplishment, the players will receive a gift basket featuring a rusty piece of rebar pulled from old Comisky Park and wrapped in medical tape, Will Shortz’s unpublished autobiography "The Puzzler", a musical montage that raises questions of steroid use among two of the elected players, and a complete box set of the television series Magnum P.I..
 
Congratulations to the members of the BJOL HOF, Class of ‘14!
 
*          *          *
Checking in on the rest of the results:
 
 
Oh-So-Close
 
Player
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
Curt Schilling
73.6%
54.4%
x
x
x
x
 
After a strong showing in 2013, Curt Schilling jumped an impressive twenty points, coming within two votes of being the sixth player (and fourth pitcher) elected.
 
 
Hovering at 50%
 
Player
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
Larry Walker
54.9%
49.5%
50%
23%
x
x
Rafael Palmeiro
46.2%
48.5%
48%
33%
x
x
Andre Dawson
44.0%
38.8%
52%
18%
25%
21%
 
Larry Walker and Rafael Palmeiro continue to hang around the 50% mark. Both players have impressive numbers, but Walker’s home numbers at Coors leave some voters unsure of where to peg his true talent level. And Palmeiro’s comments to Congress aside, there is strong evidence suggesting that Will Clark’s alter-ego not only used performance enhancing drugs, but participated in commercial endorsement for them.
 
A year after losing ground on the crowded 2013 ballot, Andre Dawson makes a steady climb back towards the 50% mark. He isn’t the darling of the sabermetric community, but I’m rooting for him. We’ll see how the wind blows for Hawk in 2015
 
 
Comfortably Treading Water
 
Player
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
Sammy Sosa
31.9%
33.0%
x
x
x
x
Jeff Kent
33.0%
x
x
x
x
x
Fred McGriff
28.6%
28.2%
36%
25%
18%
x
Kenny Lofton
26.4%
25.2%
x
x
x
x
Kevin Brown
20.9%
18.4%
24%
22%
x
x
 
Jeff Kent has a respectable first showing, netting a third of the votes. The other four players treaded water for the year, waiting for the crop of elite candidates to drop away before their cases are fully heard.
 
 
The Survivors
 
Player
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
Dale Murphy
14.3%
10.7%
15%
x
x
x
Bernie Williams
14.3%
9.7%
18%
x
x
x
 
Dale Murphy and Bernie Williams live to see another year: both players picked up a little ground from their 2013 percentages.
 
 
Dropping off the Ballot
 
Player
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
Jack Morris
4.4%
8.7%
13%
22%
10%
10%
John Olerud
4.4%
5.8%
18%
5%
x
x
Luis Gonzalez
2.2%
x
x
x
x
x
Moises Alou
1.1%
x
x
x
x
x
 
I voted for Olerud; I don’t know that he’s really a Hall-of-Famer, but I wanted a bit more time to decide on him. Jack Morris, the Mike Mussina of his era, also slips off the ballot. At least the 1984 Tigers are well-represented (Trammell, Whitaker) in our Hall-of-Fame.
 
*          *          *
 
 
Write-In Candidate: 2015
 
Our second annual write-in campaign to add a player to next year’s ballot was a compelling campaign. Before I announce the winners, let’s see who received write-in votes for 2015:
 
Player
Write-In Votes
Don Mattingly
1
Kevin Appier
1
Bob Caruthers
1
Ted Simmons
1
Reggie Smith
1
Wes Ferrell
1
Joe Jackson
1
Willie Davis
1
Dick Allen
1
Paul O'Neil
1
 
A respectable lot: I’m partial to the cases of Mattingly (a favorite player of mine), Dick Allen (as a player, comparable to Frank Thomas), Reggie Smith (comparable to Carlos Beltran), and Parisian Bob Caruthers (just for the nickname).
 
Player
Write-In Votes
Pete Rose
3
David Cone
2
Minnie Minosa
2
 
A campaign for Pete Rose gained some traction this year....
 
Player
Write-In Votes
Will Clark
7
Keith Hernandez
5
 
A spirited contingent of Keith Hernandez fans had the Best Defensive First Baseman ahead of the pack for a little while, only to discover that he sometimes smokes. Meanwhile, Rafael Palmeiro’s teammate and alter-ego Will Clark received a steady run of support.
 
But in the end, the write-in race was a two-horse race between two participants in the 1986 ALCS; two of the most popular players in the sabermetric community:
 
Player
Write-In Votes
Dwight Evans
11
Bobby Grich
10
 
Despite a late surge for Grich, Dwight Evans managed to outlast the Angels second-baseman. He’ll make his first appearance next year, on the 2015 BJOL ballot.
 
Thanks for voting. We’ll see you again next year.
 
Dave Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com. 
 
 

COMMENTS (51 Comments, most recent shown first)

KaiserD2
Brian,

I was comparing Biggio--and everyone else in the study--to the average hitter. But I also specifically compared him to three second basemen who went into the Hall of Fame and one (Grich) who obviously ought to be. (Bill James pointed out that Grich was a great player thirty years ago, and I don't think even he knew just how right he was.) In the same way Jeter has not contributed anywhere near what Barry Larkin did (although he has been much more valuable than Ozzie Smith), and Ripken's peak was MUCH higher than Jeter's, although for much of his career he was in the same ballpark--we've already discussed this.

Now you do have a point about catchers, because there has never been a catcher in the history of baseball who had four seasons with 4 WAA, much less five. Johnny Bench, I think (don't hold me this, I could be wrong) holds the record for 5 WAA seasons with 2. If I present catching data it will be presented separately. Based on what on what I've seen so far, it seems clear that there is much less value variance among catchers than among any other position, which is a rather interesting fact, I think. I will say, however, that i the context of the catchers in the Hall, Mike Piazza is wildly overqualified for it.

And no, I would not penalize someone who had been generally great for four seasons for hanging on long past his prime. Pete Rose, for instance--leaving aside his other problems.
1:32 PM Jan 14th
 
Brian
I think there is a real good argument that WAA might be a superior standard for Hall of Fame than WAR. I like the "greatness vs value"
principle.

The problem is players who extend their careers by playing when they are in that area between average and replacement level. They still have value, and are helping their teams by playing, but they are damaging their career WAA.

I know you are not pushing this for Hall of Fame purposes, but I bet it would work pretty well as a HOF measure if you kept the total of the positve years but zeroed out the negative ones.
11:56 AM Jan 14th
 
Brian
KaiserD2,

Sorry if I missed an explanation that I should have gotten, but when you are computing WAA, are you comparing Biggio's offense to the average 2nd Baseman or the average hiiter? If it's the average hitter, and you are not making a postional adjustment, then the method seems to deprive him of credit for playing a position of high defensive responsibility. The same would be true for Jeter and for catchers.
11:26 AM Jan 14th
 
KaiserD2
Dave Fleming is certainly correct that great players don't automatically win pennants, but I think when I do the numbers on that, as I plan to do, I will find that they help a lot. On the other hand, one of the striking questions I emerge from the study with is, how on earth could the Giants have won pennants in only 2 of the 12 seasons in which Willie Mays had over 5 WAA? (They won in 1951 and 1971 when he had less.) And incidentally, Victorino performed at the 5 WAA level for the 120 games in which he was in the line-up. He had a remarkable year. But yes, a lot of teams win pennants with a bunch of 3-4 WAA players. Yes, a whole lot of goodness will make up for a lack of greatness.

The question of how valuable a guy who remains at 2-3 WAA for 10-12 years is strikes me as one of the most difficult questions of all. Yes, he's a big help. But you won't win the pennant if he's the best guy on your team. And when I come up with the pitching data, you will be amazed at how many HOF pitchers fall into exactly that category. They were decent pitchers with durability who played for good teams--like Jack Morris.

DK


8:36 AM Jan 14th
 
rgregory1956

Like sokho, there's a study to be done out there, but it's not going to be me who does it. Find all the guys who have 1.0 WAA, 2.0 WAA, 3.0 WAA and so on, and found out the percentage who played on a pennant winner or playoff team or .500+ team. Another study would be a matched-pair type, where you'd have a 5.0 and a 1.0 matched with two 3.0s and see which won more games.


10:30 PM Jan 13th
 
sokho
Well, let's not go too far. I would be very surprised if, over the history of baseball, pennant winners did not have a greater-than-random share of excellent player seasons, probably materially greater (although I have not done [and will not do] the research).

Also, for planning purposes, I'd suspect that having a couple of five WAA players (well, players who can be reliably EXPECTED to add 5 wins above average) locked in for the following season generally makes the job of a GM much easier on a team thinking about contending...

My broader point below was just that value can reasonably be defined in different ways. The one that I'd usually employ if I were assessing career value or putting together a roster would be tied to some fungibility level of performance--but KaiserD2 uses a different definition of value to identify "greatness" as he defines it. So long as he's not saying it's like the speed of light or absolute zero (and I don't see any sign that he is), it's seems reasonable to me...
10:12 PM Jan 13th
 
DaveFleming
I'm with Steve and Sokho: I'm not convinced that 'great seasons win pennants.

DK sets his bar for a 'great' season at 5.0 WAA. If his thesis is correct, we'd expect pennant winning teams to have players with a WAA over 5.0

The Red Sox had no players with a WAA over 5.0. They had two players over 4.0 (Pedroia and Victorino).

That's a small sample size on exactly one team. But...the NL Champs didn't have anyone over 5.0, either. They had Carpenter (4.5), Wainwright (4.2), and Molina (4.0).

Ten players had a WAA over 5.0 last year: none of them played on pennant winners. Half of them played on teams that didn't make the postseason.
6:59 PM Jan 13th
 
steve161
"I'm trying to focus on greatness, defined by individual seasons, because it's what wins pennants."

I'm not so sure. If I understand sokho correctly, he's suggesting that a whole lot of goodness will make up for a lack of greatness, or at least a lack of excess of greatness. Looking at the World Series participants (not just the winners) of the last 20 years or so, I think he's got an argument.

I was thinking the same thing when Bob Gregory tallied up the decade results of the various votes in the Reader Posts. There doesn't seem to be much of a correlation between individual greatness and team success.

3:55 PM Jan 13th
 
rgregory1956

It's hard to know for sure since it's kind of unrealistic. But what you're talking about, if it were a pitcher, is a guy going 350-350 with an ERA+ of 100. A remarkable career, but probably not a HOFer in my eyes.


11:46 AM Jan 13th
 
sokho
Great points, rgregory1956 and KaiserD2, so long as we acknowledge that pennants are won by teams, all of which have average or below average performers who, nevertheless, nudge teams towards championships. In fact, from one perspective, the more performers there are on a team who are above average, the LOWER the need for any of those "peak" seasons from anyone (recognizing that, from another perspective, that's a sophist's arguement).

My thinking is pulled back to the Hall of Fame discussion by two unrealistically extreme illustrations that I find useful to frame my thinking:

Peak Value Player A: A guy comes up to the Majors as a 23 years old, plays 10 year, contributes 10 WAA (or, say, 12 WAR) for each of five years, plays another five as an undistinguished but full time player with 0 WAA (or 2 WAR) per year, then retires. 50 WAA, 70 WAR (a superpowered Albert Belle, perhaps)

Career Value Player B: A guy comes up at 19, never makes an all star team, never, in fact, is one iota above an average big league player, but does this full time, year after year, until he's 53--35 years of undistinguished, average major league performance. 0 WAA, 70 WAR (a more durable and consistent version of Julio Franco, maybe)

Is Player A a Hall of famer? From the discussion, seems like all the participants on this board would say yes. Is Player B? You bet your butt I'd vote for him. I'd be curious to the hear opinions of others.

Sokho.
11:28 AM Jan 13th
 
KaiserD2
rgregory, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Let me suggest that 1998 was a turning point in a lot of ways. ..well, actually, 1995 was a turning point also. With three rounds of playoffs getting to the World Series is a crapshoot, it's almost impossible to build a dynasty (although the Yanks managed it, 1996-2003), and there is much more focus on individual performance. I'm trying to focus on greatness, defined by individual seasons, because it's what wins pennants.

DK
6:58 PM Jan 12th
 
evanecurb
Oliverp:

A poem I learned to help with the Celsius scale:

30's hot
20's nice
10 is cool
and zero is ice

I prefer the Kelvin scale, which was named after Kelvin Bryant, who was a star running back with UNC in the 1980s and played in both the USFL and the NFL. Many thermostats still have the name "Bryant" posted on them in commemoration of the Kelvin scale.

I like the idea of absolute zero.

Steve161: Maybe we should measure players on the Kelvin scale: Wins above absolute zero.


9:31 AM Jan 12th
 
rgregory1956

I wish I had thought of this a few days ago when the topic was fresh, but sometimes my brain works a little slower than I'd like.

I am more of a "career stats" over "peak value" kind of guy, but I do get what Kaiser is trying to do. In my view, there is a big difference between "value" and "greatness". A player with a 0.0 WAA has value, but not necessarily greatness. Kaiser, by looking at WAA, is attempting to see how high a player's peak is. He's studying "greatness" as opposed to "value".

(It's always a little dangerous to explain another's methodology. If I'm way off base, Kaiser, please accept my apologies. And BTW, if/when you present at a SABR National, please let me know. I'll be in the audience.)

12:12 PM Jan 11th
 
oliverp
But I was serious. The Fahrenheit scale is the preferred scale of myself and most Americans. All those other countries have it wrong and America is right about this issue. It's just like how a lot of countries foolishly are mad about soccer and don't even play baseball. Or countries that play cricket instead of baseball. All those countries that don't play baseball are just stupid.
7:48 PM Jan 10th
 
sokho
Thanks, KaiserD2, for answering my question. That "average" represents a known point in a set of data seems like a sensible reason to use it in a study. Just want to point out--and my guess is that we'd all agree--that using X wins above average as the line of demarcation for value in a season will skew an exercise in identifying player value pretty heavily towards guys with numerous great seasons and--again my guess is that we'd all agree--there are other reasonable ways to think about the value of a player's contribution, some of them more useful for some purposes (e.g. for a team's GM--talking about general contribution above some replacement level here rather than WAR or WAA in particular).

Oliverp, that's pretty funny. I enjoy that type of satire in context. This being a public forum, however, I bet there are some readers who will take your comment as being serious. Just something to think about.
6:12 PM Jan 10th
 
oliverp
I don't like the celsius temperature scale, it's stupid. Everybody should use Farenheit. Farenheit just makes sense. 100 is really hot, 32 is cold, and 0 is really cold. 50 is just about the tolerable level for being outside a long time. It just makes sense. I'm sick of all these foreigners trying to quote celsius temperatures when Farenheit is the real scale of temperature.
5:22 PM Jan 10th
 
steve161
Bear with me: this is about WAA and WAR.

Most of the world uses the Celsius temperature scale, which defines zero degrees as the freezing point of water and 100 degrees as the boiling point. The United States (and a very few other countries) use the Fahrenheit scale, whose definition of zero degrees might have made sense a couple of centuries ago, but I'd bet that not one of you could tell me what it is (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit, if you're curious). The two scales meet at about minus 40.

This has been an unusually warm winter in Munich, so it's about 5 C right now (1130 PM). That's 41 degrees F. The C number 'speaks' to me more than the F, even though I lived almost half my life in the USA. But in fact it's the same temperature. The only difference is the zero point, and for whatever reason I've found it easier to internalize the freezing point of water. Ultimately it's a matter of taste.

The same is true of WAA and WAR. The zero point of WAR, this nebulous concept of a 'replacement level player', is not as well defined as the zero point of WAA (at least I think it isn't, since I don't actually understand WAA). Conceptually I'd be happiest if the mid-point were the median rather than the mean, but perhaps it is both. In any case I can wrap my head around it better than I can 'replacement level'.

And I don't think anyone believes that the below-average player lacks value. Get rid of half the teams, discard the bottom 50% of players, and of the remaining 50% half will be below average. Even a sportswriter should be able to grasp that.

Hell, even players below 'replacement level' have some value. "If you don't have a catcher, you're going to get a lot of passed balls."

I'm suspicious of all Great Stats, because I don't believe we understand the game that well yet. WAA and WAR are both based on theories of the game that attempt to advance that understanding. The difference in those theories--the math--is what really distinguishes them, not the zero point. That's just a matter of taste.
4:52 PM Jan 10th
 
KaiserD2
To Chill: your point about Barry Bonds and pennants is taking advantage of a semantic distinction. During Barry Bonds's career, to win the pennant, that is, to reach the World Series, you had to not only win about 90 games during the season at a minimum but win first one, and then two, rounds of playoffs. The playoffs are crap shoots and you can't blame one player for not winning them.

The Pirates, with Barry Bonds, reached the playoffs three times in a row. The Giants, with Barry Bonds, reached the playoffs 4 times, three times as division winners.

For Dave Fleming, I understand your point. I am not denying that an average player has value. I am saying that what you need to win 90-100 games is a number of well above average players, and thus, that's what I'm looking for. And, I really think accurately measuring replacement value is, to put it mildly, a gigantic task. My mind is more open on the question of whether shortstops or catchers should be measured against a different "average" on outfielders, but I haven't reached a firm conclusion yet.

This has been a lot of fun.

DK
9:56 AM Jan 10th
 
DaveFleming
First Basemen's Two Best Seasons, According to WAR:

Jeff Bagwell: 8.2, 7.7.
John Olerud: 7.8, 7.6.
Frank Thomas: 7.3, 7.0.
Mark McGwire: 7.5, 6.5.

9:09 PM Jan 9th
 
DaveFleming
On sprox's suggestion about booting the Maddux non-voters:

One of 'em is a long-time member, and fantastic participant in Reader's Section. He made his rationale for his vote clear. He should stay.

The other guy still owes someone a Don Mattingly autograph, to replace the one he ripped up. And I don't think he even pays the $3 bucks...I think there's some nepotism deal going on there. Let's revoke his voting privileges!
9:01 PM Jan 9th
 
DaveFleming
The issue I have with Win Above Average (WAA) versus Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is that Wins Above Average makes less intuitive sense than Wins Above Replacement.

Using Cal Ripken's 1998 season in Baltimore...Ripken played 161 games at third base, hitting 14 HR and posting a .721 OPS. It's obviously not a great season; we're not talking about an MVP-type year....but it's a year that had a little bit of value.

WAA (or at least the BB-Reference version) calls 1998 a negative season: he gets a WAA of -0.4

WAR rates it as a positive season....he gets a WAR of 1.9. He didn't provide much help, but he was better than a replacement-level shortstop.

Now...these two numbers are making the same evaluation: they're reaching the same conclusion: Ripken was an average-ish major-league 3B in 1998.

But....they're making that point differently. WAR says that being an average major league 3B has some value...he gets a positive number for being average. WAA gives the year no value: he hits zero.

It's a small difference, but I think it goes a long way towards explaining why WAR has caught on with the sabermetric community, in a way that WAA hasn't. WAR makes more intuitive sense: we look at Ripken's line in 1998 and we assume that he helped the Orioles a little bit. WAR agrees with this. WAA doesn't.

That doesn't mean that WAR is necessarily more useful to your thesis than WAA....I suppose that they're equally good at picking out great players.

But I'd argue that WAR is a more useful statistic than WAA in evaluating careers, because being an average major league player does have value.
8:50 PM Jan 9th
 
chill
Reacting to KD2's repeated statement that to win pennants, you need players well above average...well, yes, but you need average players, too. Barry Bonds's teams won one pennant. One. Most people agree Ernie Banks was a pretty good ball player. How many pennants did his team win? Seattle with Junior, Edgar, the Unit, Alex-Rodriguez-before-he-was-ARod?

Average players are scarce and valuable, too.

Having enough players who are "average" for their position is a huge part of winning pennants.
8:47 PM Jan 9th
 
sprox
Okay - let's give the two losers who failed to vote for Greg Maddux their $3 back and kick them off the site?

Who's with me?

hello? hello? anyone?

Bueller?
8:38 PM Jan 9th
 
steve161
A few comments on David Kaiser's last post:

1) I don't really care where the midpoint of a metric is. The mean has this advantage over replacement level: it is well-defined. I reserve judgement on WAA until I understand it better, but sokho's point is well-taken: if it doesn't show the tightening about the mean he has observed in other metrics, that calls it into question.

2) I agree that Keith Hernandez is as deserving a HOFer as Eddie Murray (whose credentials I do not question for a minute). In general I'd like to see the two or three best defenders at each position in the Hall, just like Bill Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith, assuming one could figure out who they are.

3) Cal Ripken is indeed a very strange ballplayer. His highest career similarity score at BBRef (Dave Winfield) is only 789, and less than half of his top 10 comparables are middle infielders. His career numbers nosedive after age 30: only 3 of 10 seasons with OPS+ over 100 and one of them a half-season at age 38. I never held The Streak against him--his argument was that the Orioles didn't have anybody who even fresh would play as well, and I bought that--and we'll never know what effect it had on his production. But one has to wonder.
8:34 PM Jan 9th
 
rgregory1956

Hey JimmyG, I'm doing fine.

Unfortunately, Maddux and Thomas (and Glavine and Mussina, as well) will not be getting my love next year. They won't be on the ballot!!!
6:04 PM Jan 9th
 
KaiserD2
Yikes. I meant Murray, not Murphy--he was not that good--and I just missed that. Comes from doing so many things at once.

The reason I use wins above average is that I think it's a more reliable measurement, and also much more easy for me to visualize. It has been pointed out on the SABR list that there are several ways to calculate replacement, and therefore, different statements of WAR don't agree with one another. I know people claim that the trouble with WAA is that is makes people who are below average sound worthless. I know they are not worthless and that someone -1 WAA is a lot better than someone -3 WAA, but the fact is, what you need to win the pennant is a number of people significantly above 0 WAA. I even used a much less sophisticated version of WAA in my book Epic Season which was written in the late 1980s and published ten years later. As for win shares, I couldn't use Humphreys's fielding measurements with them, and I think they suffer from being based on actual wins instead of Pythagorean percentage. If your team loses a lot of one-run games, your win shares get affected that year.

I'm glad Murray is in the Hall. Again, Keith Hernandez's peak years are about as good as Murray's and he was on several pennant winners too. Not an accident.

One more comment: Cal Ripken's WAA numbers are good but I can't look at his record without thinking they should have been much better. They are strange. He had three terrific seasons: 7.4, 6.9, 5.1 WAA. Not only that, he had two of those when he was 21 and 23. But beyond that, he never made it to 2.5 WAA, He had ten full seasons of average or below average. I have to think he could have been much more valuable if he hadn't focused on Gehrig's record.
DK
2:04 PM Jan 9th
 
DaveFleming
The BBWAA was voting on a significantly more stacked ballot: their list had all of the same names that we had, plus Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Mike Piazza, and Mark McGwire.

I suppose that's balanced a bit by the presence of Olerud, Brown, Dawson, Lofton, and Whittaker on our ballot.
1:17 PM Jan 9th
 
rgregory1956

Not that it's overly noteworthy, but I noticed that the BBWAA averaged 8.4 names per ballot. The BJOL voters averaged that same 8.4 names per ballot. I'll let someone else decide if this has any significance or meaning.



12:53 PM Jan 9th
 
DaveFleming
KD2: You've mentioned Eddie Murray twice now: he was elected by the BBWAA in 2003, his first year of eligibility.

I wonder if you mean Murphy...Dale Murphy.
12:45 PM Jan 9th
 
DaveFleming
KD2: You've mentioned Eddie Murray twice now: he was elected by the BBWAA in 2003, his first year of eligibility.

I wonder if you mean Murphy...Dale Murphy.
12:45 PM Jan 9th
 
sokho
By the way, in case it wasn't clear, (2) below is a question for David Kaiser.

Thanks.
12:32 PM Jan 9th
 
sokho
Interesting discussion, Gentlemen.

(1) Sounds like everyone's in rough agreement with the interpretation of Gould's point (that the decreasing frequency & extremity of real outliers performances above the mean indicates that the mean is rising towards the notional "right wall" of distributed human performance [or vice versa]). I would not be as confident as you are, Mr. Kaiser, based on the data he's shared, in stating that Gould is wrong--I've seen the distribution of various performance metrics plotted year by year over time and they almost all tighten about the mean (i.e. all have shrinking standard deviations) although I, admittedly, haven't seen it for Wins Above Average. It is, nevertheless, an interesting point.

(2) I assume that when you present or publish, you'll share all the ins & outs of your methodology. I'm curious if you give us a previous on the following question: why do you use contribution above average performance as your standard for value as opposed to contribution above some point of fungibility (wins above replacement, win shares, etc.)? Both are common metrics, but there are many reasons (widely discussed, and I won't repeat here) that value above a replacement threhold is used more often both in baseball operations and in retrospective analysis. Obviously, defining "greatness" as performance above average would skew it much more heavily towards the peak performances you identify than would defining it as performance above replacement, which would tend to identify players with greater lifetime totals...

Thanks, again, all, for this discussion.

Sokho.
12:30 PM Jan 9th
 
KaiserD2
Steve: I don't think your argument weakens what I'm saying at all. Remember, everything I'm doing is based upon Wins Above Average. If Gould had been right, then today's very best hitters would be less above average than they used to be. But as my data will show beyond any doubt, that is NOT the case. Gould's point, I think--this is tentative, pending more data--would hold up somewhat better for pitchers. But that is mostly because pitchers in earlier eras pitched so many more innings than they do today and thus their impact was magnified.

As for Dwight Evans, one thing his advocates should notice is that he really got screwed by the 1981 strike. He was on the pace to finish with more than 8 WAA, a real MONSTER season. (I don't think he would have finished with 8, but he would have finished with 6 or 7 and it would have been his best season.) He does better by my method than Jim Rice, and indeed, with 162 games in 1981 his best season would have been better than Rice's best. But he's below Grich, Murray, Keith Hernandez, and Dave Parker (the last two have other problems of course) with respect to his top 4 seasons. Once again, from that generation the people who are really are being treated unfairly by BWAA in my opinion are Grich, Murray and Hernandez.

I'm trying to stay away from the question of the Hall of Fame. My standard is so much higher than the Hall's that it isn't even relevant. It occurs to me, though, that a reasonable question about candidates now might be, is this guy better than the average Hall of Famer? Given that practically all of us agree that there are people there who don't deserve it, that strikes me as reasonable, and certainly much more so than, "this guy is better than two Hall of Famers I can identify, therefore he should go in."

DK
8:48 AM Jan 9th
 
ventboys
Clearly Whitaker was voted in based on his WAR, and that's probably what will get his case to the top of the pile in the 2020s, when the VC gets serious about the 1980s.
8:47 AM Jan 9th
 
Tubbs44
I'm glad to see Dwight Evans won the write-in vote and will be on the 2015 BJOL ballot. Now we just need to find a way to get Evans (as well as Bobby Grich & Keith Hernandez) on the 2016 Expansion Era ballot.
7:41 AM Jan 9th
 
DaveFleming
(Edit: Steve161 did a better job of paraphrasing Gould's argument than I did, for those who haven't read the article.)
9:54 PM Jan 8th
 
DaveFleming
That's Gould's argument about .400 hitters, right? Just from memory (for anyone who missed it), Gould argues that the reason we haven't seen a .400 hitter isn't because we have [i]less[i] great players today, but because we have more great players, and they've made it harder for one player to stand out from the crowd.

I know a lot of folks have punched holes in that theory.

I think Bill's in agreement with you on positional adjustment: Win Shares doesn't make a positional adjustment for what a player does at the plate, whereas WAR does.

I think you're right about career numbers being misleading, especially among the current crop of eligible candidates. But...it's unlikely that the BJOL voters voted for Whitaker on the basis of 242 homeruns and 1000-odd RBI's. If they/we were voting on raw career numbers, wouldn't Jeff Kent have done better than Sweet Lou?
9:44 PM Jan 8th
 
steve161
"And Palmeiro’s comments to Congress aside, there is strong evidence suggesting that Will Clark’s alter-ego not only used performance enhancing drugs, but participated in commercial endorsement for them."

Loved this. Of course, the drug Palmeiro endorsed may have helped him score, but it didn't necessarily help him hit.

David K: I think you've misunderstood Gould's argument--at least, you have not refuted it by noting constancy in the number of superstars. What Gould asserted--which I think is obviously correct--is that today's level of competition is higher not because of the best players but the worst. That is, while the top 50% of a roster may be comparable across eras, the bottom 50% gets stronger as you get closer to the present day.
9:42 PM Jan 8th
 
KaiserD2
I should make clear, if I didn't, that that is my other difference with baseball-reference--I drop the position adjustment. That's not to say that one would judge every position on the same scale--you can't. In the whole history of baseball there is not one catcher who came close to have four seasons over 5 WAA. (I think among the ones I've found Bench holds the record with 2). But I think it's more straightforward to use a single measurement and then decide what it means for different positions.

Dave, I want to go back to where I started. I think where I'm different is that I'm refusing to put the emphasis on lifetime totals, which particularly in the era we have just lived through can be very misleading. I'm looking at individual seasons. An awful lot of players have made their reputations out of one or two of them.

One conclusion, incidentally, in which I feel very confident, is that Stephen Jay Gould's evolutionary argument is wrong. For the whole of the 20th and 21st century, from one generation to the next, the number of superstars is astonishingly consistent. And by the way, Mike Trout, at the rate he is going, has an excellent chance to be as good as Mays or Aaron.

DK
9:02 PM Jan 8th
 
ventboys
Jeter's WAR value probably overrates him, because it is based on batting with a shortstop's glove on more than how well he played shortstop. The more defensive minded metrics tend to underrate him because they do the opposite: they make him bat without any adjustment for defensive position, while they compare his defensive value to other shortstops, most of whom are far less productive hitters.

The answer? Well, find it and you'll get rich.
7:45 PM Jan 8th
 
DaveFleming
Thanks for the double-check, DK.

This just came to mind: one of the big differences...maybe the biggest difference....between doing baseball research today and doing baseball research twenty-five years ago is that today we're addressing critical counterarguments from TWO fronts, rather than one.

Bill, when he started out, was trying to challenge the status quo; the old guard. That was a tough battle, but it was a battle on exactly one front. He could say something like, "Jim Rice is overrated," and he knew where the counter-attack was coming from, and what weapons they'd bring.

Nowadays, a researcher contends with two fronts: the old guard who still talk about RBI's and clutch hitting, and the new guard of sabermetrically-inclined fans, like those on fangraphs and here. Saying something like, "Derek Jeter is overrated" will certainly get out that old guard, but it also has the potential to rally stat-minded crowd.

Which makes your argument about Jeter exponentially more difficult to defend, because the old guard and the stat guys are pretty much in agreement on Jeter. They don't agree on why Jeter is great - the old guard likes his jump-throws and his intangibles, while the new guard likes his WAR and Win Shares - but both groups think he's a legitimately great player.

And maybe both groups are wrong; there's a chance that Jeter's defense was so bad that it pulls back his offensive contributions more than anyone currently acknowledges. It's an interesting thesis.



7:10 PM Jan 8th
 
KaiserD2
Dave,

Thank you.

You were half right.

I checked my spreadsheet, and I have to apologize. The problem is not with my system, the problem was with my data on Jeter. I have developed this data by starting with spreadsheets from baseball-reference.com, and then moving some columns around, entering the Humphreys fielding data, and using a slightly different formula to calculate WAA. One aspect of that formula is to subtract the fielding runs data provided by baseball-reference, and then to add in Humphreys's data. For some reason, the row in Jeter's entry that was supposed to be filled with the baseball reference data was blank. I have checked nearly all my spreadsheets including about 80% of my data and I don't seem have done that with anyone but him. How it happened, I don't know. I'm glad you forced me to take a look.

And yes, having corrected it, the results are different--although not that different.

The recalculated results show Jeter's four best seasons at 3.9, 3.2, 3.1 and 3.0 WAA, in 1999, 1998, 2006, and 2005. Here are the rest of his WAA figures, from top to bottom: 1.9, 1.8, 1.2, 0.8, 0.5, 0.4, 0.4, -0.3, -0.7, -0.8, -1.2, -1.6, -1.9, and -2.2. So the corrected figures show him rounded off to average or below average in exactly half of his 18 seasons in the major leagues.

One of the things that got me going on this was the Bill James question fro the Keltner test: "If this guy were the best player on your team, could you win the pennant?" Bill did not say, how many times? But this goes to your question of Jeter winning pennants. The Yankees did win the pennant in his four seasons of >3 WAA and he was a major contributor. He may have been the most valuable Yankee in 1999 and 1998; he certainly was not in 2006 or 2005.

I apologize for the mistake, and I will recheck my data very carefully before publishing it, but my evaluation of Jeter was not that far off--unless you want to argue that Humphreys's fielding data are for some reason particularly unkind to him. They are 84 runs worse, over the course of his whole career, than the baseball-reference estimates--that is, about 4 runs a season worse.

At some point I plan to run the correlations between individual records of 4, 5, etc. WAA on the one hand, and total team wins on the other.

David K

6:39 PM Jan 8th
 
DaveFleming
If I developed a system to evaluate players, and it told me that Derek Jeter 1) hasn't had a Hall-of-Fame level seasons (no seasons over a 5.0 WAA), and 2) has been a 'below average player for most of his career,' the first thing I'd think is that my system was broken.

I don't say that to rile you up, KD2: there's certainly a chance that you're right on Jeter. But...I remain skeptical.

You say that your system is weighted towards winning pennants. I like that....that's an interesting angle to consider: a player within the context of his team's success.

But Derek Jeter has won sevenpennants. In his prime. his team made the playoffs every year, and usually advanced.

If your system is really about identifying great players who help their teams win, isn't someone like Jeter the exact player your system should be identifying? Does your system's evaluation of Jeter challenge the wider perception of Jeter's career, or does it call into question the methodology that you're using to measure greatness?
5:24 PM Jan 8th
 
KaiserD2
As I have mentioned, I'm in the midst of a long-term project to identify the greatest players, based on seasonal wins above average. The point of baseball is to win pennants, and the way players help their teams do so is to perform at a much-higher-than average level. I hope to present the whole method and some results at a SABR convention soon.

It is clear that the voters on this ballot, like the BWAA voters in some years, pay far more attention to LIFETIME totals than to best seasons. This leads to VERY different results, as I will show with one or two examples.

My initial, arbitrary standard of greatness was four seasons over 5 WAA. The record for seasons over 5 WAA, I am sorry to say, is held by Barry Bonds, with 15. Henry Aaron ranks second with 14. Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were all over 10. (This list is not exhaustive.) Mike Schmidt and Ricky Henderson (the greatest players of the Boom generation) had 9 and so does Albert Pujols.

(I should mention that these figures do not match the ones at baseball-reference because I've made some adjustments but this isn't the time to go into that.)

Now to begin with, although my standard is MUCH higher than traditional HOF standards, there are two people who meet my standard who are NOT in the HOF. One of them is Bobby Grich, with 4. That ties him with Rod Carew. Lou Whitaker, on the other hand, is a perfect example of the kind of player who does much better by lifetime measurements than by mine. Never did he have a season with even 4 WAA, by my method. He did have six seasons of three or more. But according to my method, there is no way that Whitaker could be mentioned in the same breath with Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Joe Morgan, Rod Carew, and Charlie Gehringer.

I won't take the time to go through everyone mentioned in the original post here, but Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling are both VERY great according to my method. Frank Thomas qualifies by my method as great. Glavine topped 5 WAA only once, 4 twice. Mussina topped 5 twice and 4 twice more, making him a stronger player, for me, than Glavine. (Again my figures on pitchers will differ, but only very slightly, from baseball-reference.)

Last, but hardly least, Craig Biggio (sorry to be a year late) is, by this method, one of the weakest potential members of the Hall of Fame. His four best WAA marks were 8.5, 3.2, 3.1, and 2.4. This is partly because, according to the Humphreys fielding runs stats, which I use, he was a very poor second baseman. I might add that that makes Biggio substantially superior to Derek Jeter, whose for best WAA seasons are 4.7, 3.8, 3.8, and 1.2, and who has been a below average player for most of his career. And who will undoubtedly enter the Hall of Fame the first time he is eligible.

That's enough for now, but I hope I got people thinking. One more thing--another player who just barely missed my standard of greatness, and who by my lights has a much better record than most of today's marginal candidates, was Eddie Murray. Keith Hernandez is in the same class.

David Kaiser




1:54 PM Jan 8th
 
DaveFleming
Don't give the ballot any credit: our method isn't any different than the method that the BBWAA uses. What makes it effective is the voters: the BJOL readers have done a better job of sorting through a difficult class of candidates than the BBWAA has.
11:56 AM Jan 8th
 
ventboys
There are always a coupla mild surprises; this year mine are Morris dropping off completely (not that it matters, he's a VC guy anyway), McGriff's relatively poor showing (I think we kind of forgot him for a minute), and Mussina beating Schilling to the alter (barely). Overall, though, I think Dave's ballot works exponentially better than the real one. Well done again, Dave. We'll meet at the same joint next year, and I'll bring the hot wings.
8:09 AM Jan 8th
 
jimgus
RGreg is on record as having said that he never votes for first timers. Hence, no vote for Maddux or Thomas.

I am suspecting that they will get his "love" next year. :-)

How ya doin' Bob?!

Cordially,
JimmyG

7:54 AM Jan 8th
 
MarisFan61
Comiskey
Minoso

(Those aren't votes, they're spelling corrections.) :-)

I wouldn't have said anything about Comisky, but I couldn't bear seeing "Minosa."

Minnie's a Hall of Famer. (I mean in my book. I know he isn't in Cooperstown's.) I hope he stages a rally and wins one of these write-ins some year.
2:33 AM Jan 8th
 
DaveFleming
Everyone who submits a ballot is invited to include the name of a player who a) isn't on the current ballot, and b) isn't in the real Hall of Fame. Whichever player shows up on the most ballots gets tossed on next year's list, and sticks around until he either a) gets past 75% of the vote, or b) gets lower than 5%.
12:36 AM Jan 8th
 
evanecurb
Hi Dave,

Thanks again for doing this. It's always fun. How does the write in process work?
11:46 PM Jan 7th
 
tigerlily
Thanks Dave. I wonder if Maddux get a higher percentage of the BBWAA vote?
11:07 PM Jan 7th
 
 
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