Steve Garvey: A Case of Context

November 29, 2019
 

Once again, Steve Garvey is on the Hall of Fame Modern Era ballot and has a chance to be enshrined into Cooperstown.  Let’s take a look into his case.

 

First, let’s address the elephant in room- he doesn’t have the WAR numbers. His career WAR is 38.1 and the average Hall of Fame first baseman has a career WAR of 66.8.  Garvey’s fielding metrics were not great but the main reason his WAR is low is simply because he didn’t walk.  He averaged 33 walks a season and his OBP is just .035 above his batting average.  However, during his playing time getting base hits was the goal and hitting .300 was a significant milestone.

Aside from that, it is also OK to have a different approach at the plate. Garvey’s lack of walks did not come by the way of strikeouts.  There is a lot to be said for putting the ball in play and putting pressure on the defense. The 2014 and 2015 Kansas City Royals had the lowest walk totals in the league, but they also didn’t strike out. Those teams went on to win two pennants and a World Championship.  Needless to say, this approach worked out pretty well for them. The fact that Garvey didn’t walk should not completely shut him out from Hall of Fame consideration. 

Furthermore, when it comes to award and Hall of Fame evaluation, it is valid to utilize context dependent statistics. Values like WAR and wRC+ are context neutral stats and are more predictive. However, context dependent statistics are story telling statistics and an objective way of measuring past performance.  For instance, RE24 (Run Expectancy) measures how well hitters are capitalizing on their opportunities but unlike RBIs, it does not give extra credit for hitters that have more of those opportunities. Values like WPA (Win Probability Added) and RE24 are not predictive indicators, so these stats would not be solely relied upon if you were to trade for a player or sign him as a free agent.  However, they are objectively measuring what occurred and for the Hall of Fame, we are honoring a player’s actual accomplishments, and utilizing context dependent statistics is a valid approach. 

So for the time being, if we can suspend our sole belief on WAR, please consider the following.

Steve Garvey had 200 or more hits in 6 seasons. Every player that has five or more seasons of 200 hits, is in the Hall of Fame, except for Pete Rose (for reasons all too well known), Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter (whom both will be first ballot Hall of Famers, when eligible), and Michael Young.  Of course, this tidbit alone is not enough to enshrine Garvey, but it is a starting point.

 

Let’s compare Garvey’s career numbers to the modern players (from 1960 onwards) from this club.

 

Player

OBP

SLG

OPS+

Kirby Puckett

.360

.477

124

Tony Gwynn

.388

.459

132

Steve Garvey

.329

.446

117

Wade Boggs

.415

.443

131

Michael Young

.346

.441

104

Derek Jeter

.377

.440

115

Pete Rose

.375

.409

118

Ichiro Suzuki

.355

.402

107

 

Again, aside from Garvey and Michael Young, the rest of the members of this club are first ballot Hall of Fame talent. As indicated earlier, Garvey has a relatively low OBP and on this list he has the lowest.  However, when it comes to Slugging Percentage, aside from Puckett and Gwynn, Garvey has the highest.  So, for what he lacked in OBP, he made up for with a little pop.

 

During Garvey’s apex, he was slugging close to .500.  We can take this point a little further and look into his slugging tallies per season.  Just like hits are to batting average, total bases are to slugging percentage.  Let’s compare the same players and tally the total number of seasons they led the league in hits, total bases (TBs), and extra base hits (XBHs):

 

 

Player

Top 10 Hits

Top 5 TBs

Top 10 XBHs

Steve Garvey

10

7

7

Kirby Puckett

10

5

6

Pete Rose

17

4

6

Wade Boggs

9

2

3

Michael Young

8

2

0

Derek Jeter

12

1

2

Tony Gwynn

12

1

1

Ichiro Suzuki

11

0

0

 

In comparison to these Hall of Fame hitters, Garvey was more among the league leaders in total bases and extra base hits than the others. The takeaway point isn’t that Garvey was necessarily a better hitter, but he was a much different type of hitter.  Since he had multiple 200 hit seasons, some tend to think of him as a singles hitter and compare him to others in the 3000-hit club.  But Garvey was actually more of a line drive extra base hitter than a singles hitter.  

 

Let’s do the same comparison among 1B/OF/DH Hall of Fame inductees from the last 20 years:

 

Player

Top 5 TBs

Top 10 TBs

Top 10 XBHs

Steve Garvey

7

9

7

Ken Griffey Jr.

6

9

9

Vladimir Guerrero

6

8

7

Dave Winfield

3

10

9

Andre Dawson

5

10

8

Eddie Murray

5

10

5

Jim Rice

5

9

6

George Brett*

5

8

11

Frank Thomas

5

8

8

Kirby Puckett

5

8

6

Orlando Cepeda

4

8

9

Jeff Bagwell

3

7

6

Jim Thome

2

3

3

Tony Perez

2

6

7

Paul Molitor

1

5

0

Edgar Martinez

1

4

4

Tim Raines

0

4

1

Ricky Henderson

0

3

2

Harold Baines

0

2

1

Bold Italics- first ballot Hall of Famers

*Yes, George Brett was 3B but unlike other non-1B infielders, his TB and XBH tallies are amongst the tops on this list and being listed for full comparison purposes (and not conveniently hidden). 

 

Among all these Hall of Famers (many of which were first ballot), Steve Garvey has the most Top 5 seasons in Total Bases. He is also in the upper echelon in Top 10 seasons in Total Bases and Extra Base Hits. Again, this is in comparison to Hall of Famers. Yes, there is more to a ballplayer than SLG but this gives us a gauge that during Garvey’s peak his bat was among the best of the best.  Garvey was not just a good hitter, he was an ELITE hitter.

 

From 1974 to 1981, he led all of the majors in total bases (ahead of Schmidt, Rice, and Brett) and was third overall in WPA (behind Schmidt and Carew). 

 

Player*

Total Bases

Extra Base Hits

WPA

RE24

Steve Garvey

2346

448

28.8

271.5

Mike Schmidt

2320

552

33.3

367.1

Jim Rice

2192

458

16.3

198.4

George Brett

2120

462

28.4

249.6

Reggie Jackson

2049

462

28.1

282.7

Rod Carew

1945

324

29.5

320.0

Joe Morgan

1649

351

26.5

320.4

*From this period, the Top 4 in each category is listed

 

From 1974 to 1983, he led all first baseman in home runs, extra base hits and total bases.  During that time, he also had the highest WPA and RE24 among first baseman.

 

First Baseman*

Total Bases

Home Runs

Extra Base Hits

WPA

RE24

Steve Garvey

2785

200

536

29.2

287.5

Cecil Cooper

2549

193

531

20.4

227.7

Chris Chambliss

2314

145

465

14.0

131.3

Tony Perez

2036

159

447

11.5

130.3

Eddie Murray

2007

198

421

26.4

227.5

Keith Hernandez

1964

90

416

22.5

259.3

*80% of games played at 1B

 

From 1974 to 1985, a twelve-year period, he led all first baseman in total bases and was second in home runs and extra base hits.  During that time, he was Top 3 in WPA and RE24 (behind Murray and Hernandez).

 

First Baseman*

Total Bases

Home Runs

Extra Base Hits

WPA

RE24

Steve Garvey

3296

225

630

29.4

294.6

Cecil Cooper

3070

220

636

21.1

239.7

Eddie Murray

2611

258

548

40.2

340.6

Chris Chambliss

2511

157

498

12.6

137.2

Keith Hernandez

2466

115

510

31.6

340.1

*80% of games played at 1B

 

It is thought that Garvey had just a great 8-year peak, but actually he was a major contributor for 12 years. 

 

Concerning the Hall of Fame, Kirby Puckett and Jim Rice are recent inductees that were elected for their peak performance and so happened to be players that weren’t known for taking a base on balls as well. A comparison of each player’s best ten year stretch with context dependent stats, win probability and run expectancy:

 

Player

PAs

WPA

RE24

Steve Garvey (1974-1983)

6417

29.2

287.5

Kirby Puckett

(1986-1995)

6504

26.5

294.4

Jim Rice

(1977-1986)

6517

24.3

264.6

 

Yes, Kirby Puckett was more of an all-around player and did more than just hit, and that’s why he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. This argument is for Garvey as a potential post-BBWAA third tier inductee.

 

 

During Steve Garvey’s time with the Dodgers, the team greatly benefited from his performance. From 1974 to 1981, the Dodgers won 4 pennants and 1 World Championship.  Throughout this run, Garvey led the team in just about every offensive category including all three slash line totals- Hits, Times on Base, and Total Bases. Yes, the guy who never walked led the team in Times on Base. Understood, for each season he may not have been the best hitter on the team, but he was the certainly the most stable and consistent for the franchise. Same goes for Derek Jeter and the Yankees run.  Year after year, Jeter was not their best hitter, but nonetheless he was one of the cornerstones of the franchise. Same for Garvey.

 

Furthermore, in the postseason is when Garvey truly shined. During the Dodgers’ postseason runs, Garvey led the team overall in Hits and Home Runs.

 

In the 1974 postseason, Garvey had the team’s highest WPA (Win Probability Added).  That team made the World Series.

 

In 1978 National League Championship Series, Garvey had the most RBIs and HRs on the team and was the LCS MVP.  That team made the World Series.

 

In 1981, again Garvey had the highest postseason WPA on the team.  That Dodger team won the World Series.

 

And lastly in 1984, Garvey was on the Padres. He was past his peak prime, but nonetheless in the NLCS, he once again had the team’s highest WPA and once again was the LCS MVP. That Padres team made it to the franchise’s first World Series.

 

Despite the low WAR numbers, there is no doubt that Garvey was a significant cog (arguably the most significant) during the Dodgers championship run and had outstanding postseason performances.  Garvey was fortunate to have played on great teams, but not only made the most of that opportunity, his overall performance made a critical impact on his teams’ successes.

 

 

Now getting back to Garvey’s approach at the plate. He was a player that didn’t strike out a lot and had great potential for extra base hits. That is a combination for winning baseball. To prove that point, we do not have to look any further than this year’s World Series and the last three World Champions:

 

Team

Strikeouts (Team Rank)*

Total Bases (Team Rank)*

Results

2017 Astros

1087 (30th)

2681 (1st)

World Champs

2018 Red Sox

1253 (26th)

2550 (1st)

World Champs

2019 Astros

1166 (30th)

2781 (2nd)

AL Champs

2019 Nationals

1308 (27th)

2505 (8th)

World Champs

*During this time period, there are 30 MLB teams total

 

Each of these teams had a knack for not striking out and getting extra bases.  The team results speak for themselves. 

 

On an individual level and to get a sense on how this approach at the plate can convey to greatness, we can filter through the players who have numbers equal or better than Garvey in this respect. For his career Garvey had 3941 total bases and 1003 strikeouts.  From the players that had 3900 total bases or more, and fewer than 1150 strikeouts for their career- there are only 37 players in the history of baseball.  Of these 37 players, all of them are in the Hall of Fame except for four- Ichiro (who will be), Garvey, Al Oliver and Rusty Staub.

 

For players who played from 1950 and onwards:

 

Player

SLG

PAs

Strike Outs

Total Bases

Clutch

Vladimir Guerrero

.553

9059

985

4506

-2.1

Billy Williams

.493

10519

1046

4599

DNA*

George Brett

.487

11625

908

5044

5.8

Al Kaline

.480

11596

1020

4852

DNA

Tony Gwynn

.459

10232

434

4259

9.9

Al Oliver

.451

9778

756

4083

0.5

Steve Garvey

.446

9466

1003

3941

3.0

Roberto Alomar

.443

10400

1140

4018

-0.2

Wade Boggs

.443

10740

745

4064

-2.0

Rusty Staub

.431

11229

888

4185

2.1

Rod Carew

.429

10550

1028

3998

5.0

Joe Morgan

.427

11329

1015

3962

-0.1

Pete Rose

.409

15890

1143

5752

9.5

Ichiro Suzuki

.402

10734

1080

3994

7.0

Brooks Robinson

.401

11782

990

4270

DNA

*DNA- the full amount of data is not available

 

Admittedly, this is cherry picking to Garvey’s strengths. But with Garvey’s game, evaluating his career is a little more ambiguous.  There are no magic numbers for his style of play and as stated earlier, his WAR numbers do not help. Therefore, utilizing this filtering method helps convey his otherwise hidden talent of putting the ball in play with a great potential for extra bases. Not to mention, he did well in his career in high leverage situations (as indicated by the career Clutch statistic listed in the table).  

 

Concerning this statistic, there are many that don’t believe in a player being clutch. But the clutch statistic is based on objective measures like WPA and Leverage Index.  This statistic compares a player against himself by measuring how much better (or worse) a player does in high leverage situations. In a single season, a Clutch of 2.0 is considered excellent.  This is another context dependent stat that is not predictive but is story telling. Moreover, just like with any statistic, the more data, the more weight it holds.

 

Lastly, to quickly address another elephant in the room- in Baseball-Reference.com, Garvey’s similarity score is to Garrett Anderson.  Keeping context in mind:

 

Player

Plate Appearances

WPA

RE24

Steve Garvey

9466

27.2

275

Garrett Anderson

9177

2.3

71.2

 

Similar batters sure, but for their career…not the same impact.

 

To summarize Garvey’s Hall of Fame candidacy:

 

·       During his 8-year peak, he was one of the best hitters in the majors and the best slugger at his position.

 

·       For a decade, he was the very top run producer at his position. For a 12-year period, he was Top 3.

 

·       From 1974 to 1982, Garvey led the Dodgers in Hits, Times on Base, and Total Bases.  He was the cornerstone for the franchise that won 4 pennants in 8 years, and one World Championship.  

 

·       Garvey performed exceptionally well in the postseason.  He played in five World Series and won the National League Championship MVP twice.  In four of the five World Series runs, he was a major factor in his teams’ October successes.

 

·       Finally, and not mentioned previously, durability and reliability.  Steve Garvey holds the National League record for most consecutive games played with 1,207 from 1975 to 1983.  In addition, Garvey holds the National League record for most consecutive errorless games with 193 from 1983 to 1985.  Both records are no small achievements and noteworthy. 

 

 

Bill James recently tweeted "There may be no such thing as a clutch hitter, but I’ll take my chances with David Ortiz."  I bet long time Dodgers fans would say the same for Garvey.

 

Special thanks to Matt Brody and Dave Fleming.  All source data was obtained from Baseball-Reference.com. Twitter: @pgups6

 
 

COMMENTS (54 Comments, most recent shown first)

KaiserD2
I forgot--I did want to say a word about Paul Blair. He was in fact a great center fielder and a terrific hitter. He had superstar seasons in 1967 and 1969 (when he was still just 25) and was on his way to the Hall of Fame, when he was beaned in 1970. He was never anywhere near the same hitter again. But in those two season he was indeed much better than Steve Garvey or Al Oliver ever was.


10:27 AM Dec 8th
 
pgups6
OK again, not once the article or my comments have mentioned "reputation" or things of that nature. Everything has been fact driven.

Baseball reference similarity scores to Garvey are Garrett Anderson (that's why that comp was done) and Al Oliver. On the surface their numbers are similar. But if you look a little into it, they are a bit different. Garvey hit better in high leverage situations and had more gray/black ink. Even though their similar batters, you can not just plug in one player for the other and expect similar results like you would in stratomatic. Also, time and time again we've seen players change teams/environment and not have the same results.

My point is, instead of "Dodgers probably wouldn’t have done quite as well with Oliver" or "would have done much better with Hernandez and McGriff", we should address the resume for what it actually is (instead of probablies and would've could've should'ves). It's great that we are being objective (I like seeing Raines and co. in), but we are being so objective that we are not actually recognizing what actually occurred.

From 1974-81, Garvey led the 4 pennant Dodgers in overall offense, but if you don't think that warrants recognition, I can actually understand that to a degree. I think it should, I see value in that as a worthy accomplishment (think that's part of Jeter's resume as well). But completely not recognizing playoff performance is pretty egregious in my eyes. Understood, it is a small sample size. But again, championships are determined on small sample size and these at bats are the most important. And for Garvey it wasn’t a one time Mark Lemke hot streak (or Paul Blair). Not once, not twice, not three, but FOUR times Garvey was critical in his team's postseason successes. That should account for something and should be a part of his case.

And no one has addressed the actual Hall criteria items. And no one has provided a non-WAR/WAA argument.

For the record, I think McGriff and Hernandez should be in, and I’m not a big Hall guy (I want to see on average 3 players per year inducted). Hernandez is not in because he didn't put up the typical power numbers for a 1B. Voters have a tough time with ambiguity. The coke didn't help either.
9:09 PM Dec 7th
 
KaiserD2
I do not understand why Hernandez, who was the MVP of the 1986 Mets among his other achievements, never got anywhere in the BWAA balloting, either. I have to think he must have been really unpopular with the writers--why I do not know.

Thanks.
7:14 PM Dec 7th
 
hortonwho
Very good points, very well put, David. I think the comparison to Keith Hernandez is particularly stunning. I was concentrating on players on the current ballot, but looking at Hernandez (who, after all, played the same position as Garvey, and who has an MVP (or half of one, though Stargell's candidacy for that MVP was built all but entirely on "soft factors"), it really shocks me that anyone could argue for Garvey over him.
3:13 PM Dec 7th
 
KaiserD2
I appreciate pgup6 addressing me politely and directly and I will try to answer all his questions in a minute. Meanwhile, this discussion has led me to run complete data on Garvey (and on Al Oliver) which I had never done before, and it's interesting data.

Garvey and Oliver share a few things. They were both slow to develop. As a parttimer in 1971-3, Garvey showed great promise in 96 games in 1972 but was utterly mediocre in the other two years. Beginning in 1974 his WAA as I figure them were 2.3, 3.8 (his best year, 1975), 2.4, 1.5, 2.8, 2.1, 1.3, 1.2. Beginning in 1982 he was average (which I define as >.9 and >-.9) or worse, and he was a totally average player for the 1984 Padres. In my book I defined 4 WAA as a superstar season and 2-3.9 WAA as a star season. So Garvey had 5 star seasons. Only three of them were seasons in which the Dodgers reached the post season. The 2.3 figure for 1974 is one of the lowest figures for an MVP on record, and his teammate Jim Wynn was over 5 WAA that year.

Oliver took even longer to crack the 2 WAA barrier, doing so for the first time in 1974 (2.4). He had 2.6 and 2.4 in 1976-77, 2.1 in 1979, and, astonishingly, 3.7, his best season, for Montreal in 1982 when he was 35. He was well below average in his last two years. (Oliver incidentally was a terrible fielder, significantly worse than Garvey.) So Oliver, like Garvey, had four seasons over 2 WAA and one over 3 WAA, spread out over a longer career. And you can't pick 5 consecutive seasons from Oliver's career that are as good as Garvey's in 1974-8 so my answer to the question about them would be no, the Dodgers probably wouldn't have done quite as well with Oliver as Garvey but it would have been close. To find a first baseman with comparable stats in the Hall of Fame you would have to go back to Jim Bottomley or perhaps George Kelley.

On the other hand, would the Dodgers have done MUCH better with Keith Hernandez than Garvey? Yes, without any question. They also would have done better with Fred McGriff who had his 3 superstar seasons consecutively in 1988-90.

And yes, to answer your next question, I absolutely see it as unjust to give Garvey more recognition than equal or greater players simply because his teammates, unlike theirs, were good enough to get him into postseason play more often.

I would like to add something else. You are arguing, I believe, that Garvey should be in because of his great reputation while he was playing. That reputation, however, wasn't nearly great enough to get him substantial support from the BWAA when he first became eligible for the Hall. He topped 40% only three times. If, as in the case of Jim Wynn or Keith Hernandez, we could now say, based on sophisticated statistics, that the writers had treated him unfairly, then yes, I would like to see the veterans comittee vote him in. But we can't say that--those stats in my opinion vindicate the writers' judgment.

David Kaiser





8:24 AM Dec 7th
 
hortonwho
pgup6 --

It's fair to say you didn't emphasize Garvey's fame -- that is, the fact that he was regarded as a better player in his time that many other players we can now see were at least his equal, and in many cases better. I've seen that argument adduced by other Garvey defenders, but I apologize for implying that that was central to you argument.

Fundamentally, I think you are (as you acknowledged a couple times) cherry-picking stats that favor Garvey. (Including using total bases instead of slugging percentage -- Garvey never once slugged .500, for example, though he got very close several times.)

My argument is not that Garvey was not a fine player, even a very good player. But I think it's fundamentally unfair to ignore players that we can see, looking at everything they did, were better. By noticeable margins. By margins that hold up when you use other stats than WAR.

Garvey, by WAR, was more or less the same player that Harold Baines was. (And here I'll say, absolutely, that WAR is imperfect, and if you argue that Garvey's contributions were superior to Baines, especially considering his postseasons, I won't dispute.) I fear, though, that this may become the first example of what I feared when Baines was chosen last year -- a bunch of arguments that run, more or less, "He's better than Baines, so he deserves it." (Note -- I grew up in the Chicago area and Baines was one of my favorites.)

One of the main planks of your argument is that Garvey emphasized offensive contributions that were widely valued in his era. True, I believe -- but in doing so he made himself a lesser player, and I think that matters. We should be celebrating players who valued winning more than stats. I recall that even in his career he was viewed with some suspicion as a player who seemed to care too much about his own stats. I regard that as negative.

Garvey's postseason performances are a point in his favor, I'll agree. But I don't think nearly enough to outweigh the gap between his career achievements, and those of Whitaker and Evans and Simmons. It's not so much that I hate have Garvey get in -- it's that I hate leaving Whitaker and Evans and Simmons and the like out much more. (Much as it wasn't that I hated having Jack Morris get in the Hall, but that I hated that, say, Orel Hershiser, a better pitcher (with at least one similarly great postseason accomplishment), never even got a sniff.)

As I said in my first comment -- I think you made a nice try. You gave about the best possible argument one can make in Garvey's favor. But I think he still falls short. (And I'm not a small Hall guy, but I'm not a huge Hall guy either -- I think it dilutes the honor to push for too many.) As Bill once said about Phil Rizzuto, as I recall, Garvey may not be truly deserving, but if he gets in, he won't be the worst player in the Hall.
10:25 PM Dec 6th
 
pgups6
KaiserD,

4 pennants and 1 chip in 8 years time is a pretty big deal, ask any Mariners' fans.

Are you saying that if Al Oliver was on those teams instead of Garvey, the Dodgers still would've won the same amount of pennants and championship?

Because if so, I'm not sure how you would know that.

Again, the Hall's criteria includes a player's record and contributions to the team. Do you think that's BS and it's really just about a player's playing ability?

In my opinion, it would be unjust not to recognize those achievements by Garvey just because of being fortunate enough to be a good situation and making the most of it. Do you see it as unjust for a Garvey to be recognized while not recognizing a Al Oliver (or someone with similar numbers)? Honestly, I'm trying to understand where you're coming from.

The resumes should be evaluated for what they are and for what actually occurred, and not what should've or could've been.
7:42 PM Dec 6th
 
pgups6
Horton,

Did you read the article because not once did it mention that Garvey should be in because he was "famous". If it was read, then maybe I should lay out the overriding points because it was obviously missed it and others may have as well:

1. Context of Era- as mentioned in the comments, “see ball, hit ball” was valued and OBP was not as valued as it is today. That is a fact. Back then 20-30 homers would lead the league; nowadays it's closer to 40. Today you don’t see as many CGs, does that mean starters aren't as good? Of course not. Understood that WAR does take era into account to some degree but not fully and not in all aspects of the game.

2. Peak Performance- a prominent baseball reporter is indicating that Whitaker is basically the same career as Alomar and Sandberg, but as Daniel Marks lays out- that is not true. They may have the similar career totals, but Alomar and Sandberg are in the Hall because of their peak performance when they were not just the best 2Bs in the game, but one of the best overall players in the game. Careers are a little more nuanced and the players deserve a little deeper evaluation. Regarding Garvey, he was Top 5 in Total Bases seven times (Top 10 nine times). TBs is a team independent stat that is the basis for SLG, which is a part of OPS/OPS+. That is more that just being a fine hitter.

3. Hall Criteria- this seems to be widely ignored, but the Hall criteria includes a player's record, playing ability, and contributions to the teams for which the player played. WAR is great, it helps us recognize previously underrated players (ex. Raines). But there is more than playing ability to the Hall's criteria. For example- in an 8-year span, the Dodgers won 4 pennants and 1 chip. During that span, Garvey led the Dodgers in triple slash line- hits, times on base, and total bases. That stable resource has a great deal of value and I believe should be recognized as a significant contribution to team for which he played. If Garvey put up those same numbers with 8 different teams, in my opinion it would not carry the same weight for Hall evaluation, but in terms of WAR it would carry the same exact weight.

4. WAR- lastly, this seems to be the biggest sticking point and ties in with context of era. WAR is one value but as indicated it kills players that didn't walk (which wasn’t as emphasized in that era). There are other statistics as well. In the article WPA and RE24 are used to show that Garvey was in line with some of the top hitters for an eight-year period and the top run producer at his position for a decade’s time. WPA and RE24 are not like RBIs and do not give extra credit for those with more opportunity. Do you not trust WPA and RE24? What are the specific issues with these stats? I’m open to listen and learn from your analysis.

Overall, which points do you specifically disagree and what are your thoughts so we can pinpoint the differences.

And yes, if we solely use WAR there are better candidates on the ballot.

7:22 PM Dec 6th
 
mrbryan
I think that we can build a pretty great HOF case for Paul Blair, a key player on no fewer than 10 first place teams. A historically great fielder at a key defensive position, a good base runner, he had power, and he was a great clutch hitter, hitting .400 in the 1969 ALCS! He also has the same WAR, 38, as Garvey. I think Blair should get some notice.
5:21 PM Dec 6th
 
KaiserD2
I just want to comment on one of Glwall3 because it's a very common line of argument. He wrote:

" He had the biggest impact of any of these eligible players in getting his team to the playoffs and winning in the playoffs. Those games aren't part of WAR or Win Shares at all."

Let me translate:

"He played on much better teams than any of these eligible players and therefore played in post season series much more often."

Yes, he was part of the reason--although as I pointed out, never the biggest reason--that the Dodgers and Padres got into postseason series and won some of them. But his teammates (and Whitaker's teammates) are the reason he was in postseason play so much more than Whitaker was. He would be another player who reached the Hall mostly thanks to his teammates, such as Travis Jackson, Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese, Tony Lazzeri, and Red Ruffing. (Not an exhaustive list by any means, either.) I don't think we need more of those.
2:27 PM Dec 6th
 
Glwall3
1) Win Shares has it closer than WAR.
The largest difference is with Lou Whitaker 63 Win Shares. 22% Difference.
2) None of these players played in 10 All-Star Games and none were MVP of the All-Star Game twice. This list of 2-time All-Star Game MVP:
Willie Mays (1963, 1968), Steve Garvey (1974, 1978), Gary Carter (1981, 1984), Cal Ripken, Jr. (1991, 2001), and Mike Trout (2014, 2015).
3) He had the biggest impact of any of these eligible players in getting his team to the playoffs and winning in the playoffs. Those games aren't part of WAR or Win Shares at all.
4) He won 4 Gold Glove awards. In addition he has the notoriety of the error-less streak.
5) He has the notoriety of the consecutive games played streak.

I actually think that this article and subsequent conversation shows that Steve Garvey has been called so over-rated that he is actually under-rated.
1:44 PM Dec 6th
 
hortonwho
Pgups6 ...

Yes, Garvey was famous. I was alive then! I remember. And his teams were great. He helped, but there were a LOT of really good players on those Dodgers teams. Not to mention an all time great manager.

My point about the 30 point WAR margin is simple: It's not 2 points. It's not CLOSE! WAR is far from perfect, but it's a good try. And his WAR was not much over 2.3that of Whitaker, Evans, Simmons. 2/3! (And more than that for Whitaker and Evans.) We're not talking about a tiny difference.

Here's the deal -- Garvey was a fine offensive player. WRC+ about 116. That's almost identical to that of Whitaker, Evans, and Simmons. So, those three were pretty much the same offensively. (Which was to a degree hidden at the time, because Whitaker, Evans, and Simmons did some more subtle offensive stuff.)

The difference obviously lies in defense. Which is easy to understand on the face of it -- 1st Base is a relatively unimportant defensive position. Second Base, Right Field, and especially Catcher are VITAL defensive positions. And all of these players were good defenders at their positions -- Evans and Whitaker were not just good but GREAT. And Garvey was at best mediocre defensively.

So -- you have only a few people who can be elected. There are four people with similar offensive value. And you are willing to argue that it is FAIR to choose the one with negligible defensive value over the three with tremendous defensive value?

It's not so much about leaving Garvey out -- it's that in arguing to put Garvey in you are arguing to leave FAR BETTER players out.

Look, I get it, Steve Garvey was a favorite of your youth. Cool. I live in St. Louis. Can I play that card for Simmons? I grew up in Chicago. When people were arguing to get Jack Morris in, I wanted to argue for Rick Reuschel (arguably a better, even much better, pitcher than Morris.)

Hall of Fame shouldn't just mean "People who were famous then." It should also mean "People who damn well deserve to be famous now!"


9:30 PM Dec 5th
 
Marc Schneider
Rico Carty was also a write-in for the ASG in 1970.
1:00 PM Dec 5th
 
garywmaloney
A few random thoughts, the Dodgers having been the team of my youth (and close observation) as a high-schooler and college guy in LA (USC '79):

-- Garvey had adversity, at the start. Those muscular arms (referred to as "piano legs") were not suited to 3B, where he was placed from 1969-73. Powerful arm, but scattershot - kept putting 'em in the seats behind first. These were the 'revolving-door infield" years for LA. Garvey's promising bat couldn't carry the glove, and he wasn't getting nearly enough PAs to stay "regular." The genius move was promoting Ron Cey to 3B, transferring OF Bill Russell to SS, and moving Garvey across the diamond to 1B, where he displaced Bill Buckner (destined for OF and eventually the trading block). Lopes came up in 1972 to lock down 2B.

The result was an historically stable and productive infield that led to the 4 pennants and belated (1981) World Championship. Garvey exploded onto the national scene in 1974 – that year, he and a fellow named Schmidt were the first WRITE-IN All-Stars of that era (deservedly so). A year later, the Reds (perhaps noting what their NL West rivals had done), transferred Rose permanently to 3B, Perez to 1B -- and voila, the "Great Eight."

-- It wasn't "just" 4 pennants / 1 Champ. The 1980 NL West campaign ended with a three-game series in LA against the division-leading Astros. Lose one game, and the Dodgers were through. The result was three one-run wins in a row by the Dodgers, to force a playoff. Here’s how Garvey performed under some extreme pressure:

Fri Oct. 3 – Goes 1-for 4, Garvey’s double tied game in the 4th, LA wins 3-2 in extras
Sat.Oct. 4 – Goes 3-for-4, Garvey scored both runs, scoring from second on a single and later a solo HR. LA wins 2-1
Sun Oct 5 – goes 1-for-4, bunting (!) for a leadoff single, then later reached on an error and scored the tying run on Cey’s HR, LA wins 4-3

Overall, 5 for 12 plus reaching on the error, 3 runs, 2 RBI (every one of those crucial).

LA lost the one-game playoff, 7-1, Garvey 0 for 4 as Joe Niekro’s knuckler baffled nearly everyone (and Dave Goltz tanked). But those thrilling games still live in the memory of Dodger fans – and they deserve to be remembered in this discussion as well.

-- The OTHER years the Dodgers didn’t win the division – 1975, 1976 and 1979, all to the Reds – Garvey was the pillar of the team, smacking over 200 hits each year, batting .315-.319, 32-38 doubles and 85-92 runs. Throughout the 1974-82 period, he was the one Dodger you absolutely KNEW was going to help carry the team. Others (Cey, Lopes, Reggie Smith, Baker, etc.) had many fine years, but Garvey was Mr. Dependable, year-in, year-out. And this was something of a dynasty.

-- See da ball, hit da ball. If I remember correctly, that was the coaching ethos of the era. Bill wrote about Matty Alou getting schooled in 1966 by Harry Walker to do just that – same thing here. If you naturally drew walks, I don’t think they stopped you – but Garvey did everything that was expected of hitters from that era. He hit the ball often, he hit it hard, and he was CLUTCH.

In early Abstracts, Bill noted how Garvey had devised a “program” for getting out of slumps – and it worked. Bill even noted how Garvey PLANNED to bunt for a hit, as part of his program (and also to keep the opposition off-guard).

-- This gets to another point noted by Bill, in “Win Shares” (2001). Garvey was the polar opposite of the man he replaced at 1B, Bill Buckner. On grounders to first, Billy Buck often pointed to the bag, expecting the pitcher to come over to cover. Garvey knew what he COULDN’T DO WELL (throw accurately), and so he AVOIDED THAT, by taking those same grounders to the bag himself. You can judge by the results (Garvey’s errorless streak and dependability at first, vs. . . . well, Buckner and history).

I think that kind of self-knowledge shows maturity and, hey, common sense. Could Garvey have walked more – was it in him? Maybe – but he KNEW he could hit, and that’s what he did. He KNEW he could beat the runner to the bag and avoid a throwing miscue, and that’s what he did.

10:17 PM Dec 4th
 
FrankD
Another point apropos of the comments. How do we adjust stats for the way the game was played at the time? In the early days, the manager controlled the game, ordering players to bunt, take a pitch, hit-and-run, etc. Or when the game was played when making contact was emphasized and striking out was an anathema and nobody cared much about walking. If you didn't play the game a certain way, even if that way was sub-optimal, you lost your job. You cannot remove a player from his time and place. The best you can do is attempt to judge that players contribution toward winning games while he played. And if players from crappy teams get a little hosed by this analysis, well, too bad. You play the game to win. I dunno the best way to correct for this but maybe boost the 'score', whatever the hell 'score' is, by 5-10% if the players team did real well... so if you boost Garvey's stat 'score' by say 5-10% is that enough to make him HOF worthy?
10:03 PM Dec 4th
 
FrankD
Interesting article and comments. When I watched baseball back then I would almost puke on the 'sweetness' of the Dodgers, Lasorda and even Garvey. That it was all fake made it even worse. I loved when the A's or the cantankerous Yankees of 'we all came in our own car' beat them (I think Nettles said the key to beating the Dodgers was to stop them from hugging each other). But the Dodgers of that era were a very good team and Garvey was the number one or two cog each year. Is that enough for the HOF? I believe that Garvey is borderline, which always leads to if this guy is in Garvey should be or if this guy is out Garvey shouldn't be. I would accept either outcome. I also agree that the various stats capture various aspects of a player, never the whole. Bill James has brought this up: given the statistical record, how much of the real player's impact can we deduce? 70% 90%? I dunno, but it isn't 100%. You have to distribute credit for winning divisions/pennants/World Series to the team as a whole, each player has done his part. So, given the same stats, a player from championship teams has to be given a boost.
9:47 PM Dec 4th
 
shthar
This is the kind of thinking that Bill James's writing was in response to.


7:59 PM Dec 4th
 
DavidHNix
For me, than anything else, Garvey was a SCARY LOOKING hitter. He radiated an intensity unmatched by any batter I've ever seen -- a steely scowl, burning black stare, and preposterous Popeye forearms as he measured his stance. There have been some pitchers who looked that intimidating, but no hitters.​
7:27 PM Dec 4th
 
frisco
To say Garvey was a key part of winning teams might be understating the case. His teams finished first or second something like fourteen of his sixteen years as a regular.

His slash line in the postseason is .338/.361/.550 and that is in 232 PA in places like Dodger Stadium, The Astrodome, Yankee Stadium, San Diego, Oakland Coliseum. Really some of the best pitcher parks of all-time against (obviously) the top competition.

My Best-Carey
4:42 PM Dec 4th
 
pgups6
There is room for both the underrated players (Raines, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Evans) and history making players (Rice, Morris, Garvey).

For the 80s through the 2000s, the BBWAA elected on average 1-2 players a year, which I thought was a little boring. And the 70-80s are underrepresented in The Hall.

I would like to see on average 3 players a year and this decade has been good that way. And the "fame" players have significant body of objective work, not just a 4-5 year stint. Some of them have been considered so overrated that they've actually became underrated.


11:42 AM Dec 4th
 
steve161
thedanholmes observes that "it's the Baseball Hall of FAME, after all, not the Baseball Hall of Performance."

I agree, but I'd flip the emphasis. It explains why players like Grich, Evans, Hernandez, etc etc are not in the Hall. They had the performance, at least arguably, but lacked the fame.

Garvey is the reverse. His fame is off the charts, his performance, while admirable, falls short, at least for some of us.

9:57 AM Dec 4th
 
pgups6
ksclacktc- thank you!
8:15 AM Dec 4th
 
ksclacktc
pgups6

Good work. You showed some onions with this article, for one I much appreciate it.

Some posters appear to be offering up strawmen, and might be better advised to go back and read the actual points made.

Keep it up.
7:57 AM Dec 4th
 
pgups6
OK Horton, and your analysis is that his WAR is 30 points lower than others on the ballot.

Yes, he made a lot of outs and hit into a lot of DPs. That's gonna happen when you're slow and put the ball in play. Carew, Clemente, Alomar, Ichiro had similar length of careers and had more career outs. Yes they had more PAs but the point being is wasn't such a huge detriment. Garvey still was one of the top run producers for a 8 year period and the top run producer at his position for a decade's time. Those are facts.

Regarding using a single value like WAR or JAWS, I believe other aspects like context of era and championship play should be factors. We are not only judging playing ability but we are also suppose to be honoring the player's accomplishments. If Al Oliver was on the Dodgers instead of Garvey, would they have had the same success in the 70s-early 80s? Yes, if you were playing stratomatic in your pajamas in your parents' basement. But in real life there are so many other factors. What we do know, Garvey was the most offensive production during the Dodgers run and critical factor in the postseason. That should account for something. I believe most new wave voters discount that as a team accomplishment and not recognize the individual efforts.

Like DanHolmes, I wouldn't necessarily have Garvey high in my all-time rankings but when you look at his overall resume and the Hall's stated criteria, I believe is worthy of the honor.
7:51 AM Dec 4th
 
hortonwho
My comment remains the same as it's been for a long time. No analysis here. Just "No, No, No, Never, Never, Never".

I admit to some prejudice, but I think the facts support me. As has been noted ad infinitum. I mean, nobody but nobody is suggesting that Garret Anderson should be in the HOF. So why compare them? That's like saying that Scott Rolen should be in the Hall (which he obviously should) because he was a better player than Gary Gaetti.

This article qualifies as "Nice try, but, er, ... No."

(I mean, on the same ballot are candidates like Lou Whitaker (!), Dwight Evans, Ted Simmons, Tommy John -- each of who's WAR doesn't just edge Garvey's, but dwarfs it. Skepticism about WAR is all very well -- it should be viewed skeptically. But 30 point differences aren't trivial.)

I have my doubts about the whole set of Veterans' Committees. Mostly they're not needed. But if they are, they should be redressing obvious oversights, like Whitaker. They shouldn't be considering people who got a fair chance when they were first on the HOF ballot, when the baseball card stats were the be-all end-all of evaluation for most HOF voters.

Sorry to be so snippy. But Steve Garvey is not a Hall of Famer, unless your goal is to make the selection of Harold Baines (a favorite player of mine, but not a Hall of Fame worthy choice) look good by comparison.
10:59 PM Dec 3rd
 
KaiserD2
Bill James wrote another interesting comment on Garvey early in his career (Bill's, not Garvey's.) He said that Garvey fit the profile of an overrated player. He was white, handsome, played in a media capitol, and his stats were strong in the three triple crown categories. But he quickly added that he didn't think Garvey was overrated, because he was so consistently good.

In general, I agree with that, but I also think Garvey was massively overrated in 1974 when he won the NL MVP over Jim Wynn who obviously had a much better season than he did, but who had just joined the Dodgers and was chronically underappreciated. I do think, however, that some sophisticated measure of value, whether WAA or WAR or Win Shares or linear weights, ought to be the most important measurement of whether some one gets into the Hall, and by that measure it's very hard to argue that he should be. Nor do I see any reason to pay any attention to what the writers thought about his fielding when we now have sophisticated measurements that can give us a better idea.

Incidentally, people are arguing that his SLG makes up for his OBP. I once heard a very sophisticated presentation at a SABR convention that showed that a percentage point increase in OBP is worth two percentage point increases in SLG.


8:16 PM Dec 3rd
 
Glwall3
Best First Basement Not In The Hall Of Fame
(Position determined from Baseball Gauge)
(Playoff Impact Rank) {All-Star Appearances Rank}
Tier 1 - Hall of Fame based on Performance
1. Albert Pujols - Still Active (1) {3}
2. Miguel Cabrera - Still Active (5) {2}
3. Mark McGwire - PED (6) {1}
4. Rafael Palmeiro - PED (12) {12}
Tier 2 - Borderline Hall of Fame
5. Steve Garvey (7) {3}
6. Keith Hernandez (10) {7}
7. Fred McGriff (8) {7}
8. Gil Hodges (2) {5}
Tier 3 - Worth Considering
9. John Olerud (3) {14}
10. Will Clark (9) {6}
11. Boog Powell (4) {12}
12. Todd Helton (14) {7}
13. Norm Cash (11) {7}
14. Jason Giambi - PED (13) {7}

6:59 PM Dec 3rd
 
pgups6
MrB,

Oliver and Buckner were great players and also a product of their era going for batting average while not striking out. And Parker is another viable Hall candidate.

If we focus the list to 1Bs from 1969-90, Garvey has the most hits and second most HRs, XBHs, and TBs (after first ballot Eddie Murray). Fourth in RE24 and WPA behind Murray, KHernandez, and McCovey. And for those who care, second in RBIs and third in Run Created.

If you don't like Garvey cause he didn't walk, that's fine, but the guy could rake.
4:20 PM Dec 3rd
 
thedanholmes
KaiserD2:

You make a compelling case, and it's well-thought out.

My concern is that are seem to be totally judging Garvey based in WAR (or WAA).

Doesn't his importance to five pennant-winning teams matter? Sure, it looks like every time his team won the pennant, another player (or two) had a statistically better season, according to advanced metrics, but Garvey was in the middle of those lineups, driving in the runs, racking up 190+ hits, playing every game, and winning postseason awards. Folks hired to watch baseball at the time awarded him several Gold Gloves, now we know in retrospect that he was a "safe" defender, didn't throw the ball (though in his defense he had an injured throwing arm), didn't range too far from his bag. But he did impress those writers and he also earned All-Star selections for a decade or more because he was so popular. The story of the National League, and the story of the Dodgers "dynasty" can't be told without Garvey. In fact, one may argue he is the leading man of that dynastic period.

In my 1B rankings, Garvey is not in the top 35, so I get the math argument. But, Garvey the player as a persona, as a postseason hero, feels like a Hall of Famer to me.

3:54 PM Dec 3rd
 
Fireball Wenz
He may never be in the Hall of Fame, but he's on the Brawny paper towel package, so he has that going for him.
2:43 PM Dec 3rd
 
mrbryan
I feel like this article is a compilation of several different arguments, and when each of them is dismantled, the author moves on to another one. It is an article written to support an already held perspective, not an attempt to establish standards and then measure whether they are met. For example, the comparison of players who led the major leagues in total bases from 1974 to 1981. This is not the natural starting point in the quest to determine greatness. This is a fixed period chosen to benefit a certain player. If we expand it into a decade, or an era, or some other time which is chosen to reflect a greater theme, we would find a very different answer to the question of who produced the most total bases. Take 1969 through 1990, for example, and call it the era of the 12-team NL. It covers Garvey's whole career, so it measures him particularly well in context. But then the answer is that Garvey is 12th, hanging out with Al Oliver and Bill Buckner, well behind Dave Parker. You can't ask for a player to be judged in context, and then make the context arbitrarily beneficial.​
2:42 PM Dec 3rd
 
gendlerj
This article confirms my belief that Steve Garvey and Jim Rice both belong to the Hall of Very Good but not Great, Players.
1:20 PM Dec 3rd
 
pgups6
As indicated, the numbers listed are to Garvey's strengths but they are valid comparisons. The initial comparison with the 200 hit club is to show that Garvey is a different type of hitter (not better). And from there, the comparisons are done with other hitters and 1Bs during that time period. For a decade's time, Garvey was the top 1B run producer. This is not meandering through the stats. By no means, is this the same as the Keltner/Williams example.

And again, as stated, he was not the Dodgers best player each season but during the time when they won 4 pennants in 8 years (which has not been done this century), and he produced the most during that time. For a franchise it is very valuable to have that solid consistent resource and it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Thanks for reading!



12:52 PM Dec 3rd
 
KaiserD2
A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I read some books by a guy just a bit younger than I am named Bill James. He destroyed a lot of shibboleths and revealed to me some new truths. They have stayed with me all my life (that was nearly 40 years ago, now.) But many of them haven't become conventional wisdom, and many people are still doing the same statistical tricks now that they did then. This article is an example of that, for me.

in the 1985 Baseball Abstract Bill commented on a campaign to get Ken Keltner into the Hall of Fame. Some of Keltner's old pals and teammates circulated a plea to get him in that noted that Keltner had more RBIs than Jackie Robinson, a higher lifetime batting average than Eddie Matthews, and more lifetime hits than Ralph Kiner. Bill noted that by the same reasoning, one could propose that Walter "No-neck" Williams should be in the Hall, since he hit more home runs than Rabbit Maranville, stole more bases than Harmon Killebrew, and hit more home runs that Louis Aparicio. Now I certainly think Garvey was more valuable over his career than Keltner or Williams was, but this article uses a great deal of the same kind of reasoning. It also relies partly on another technique that Bill criticized a lot in those days, namely, arguing that Garvey was comparable to some people (like Kirby Puckett) whose credentials are looking worse and worse with the passage of time.

Now in the course of the same article Bill put together what he called The Keltner test, a series of questions that should be asked about potential Hall of Famers. He reprinted that test in his book on the Hall of Fame. One question has always struck me as the best one, and it became, in a way, the basis of a book of mine: "If this player were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?" I discovered empirically that you need 4 WAA (or about 6 WAR) in a season to meet that standard--the vast majority of pennant winning teams had some one that good. I also discovered that most position players with 5 such seasons are in the Hall of Fame; a much smaller proportion of players with 4 such seasons are in the Hall (including Dave Parker, by the way.)

How many such seasons did Steve Garvey ever have? None. He never reached 4 WAA. Nor was he the MVP on any of the Dodger pennant winners he played on. In 1974 the MVP was Jim Wynn (who had 6 seasons of 4 or more WAA and deserves to be in the Hall), in 1977 it was Reggie Smith, I think it was Smith again in 1978 (when the Dodgers, exceptionally, didn't have anyone over 4 WAA), and in 1981 it was Fernando Valenzuela (adjusting for the strike he had 5). Did Steve Garvey help the Dodgers win these pennants? Of course. Would they have won them without better players than him? No.

My own comments on this year's veterans ballot are at baseballgreatness.com. Using my measurement from above, Parker and Dave Mattingly are the strongest candidates with 4 superstar seasons (4 WAA or more) each. Those are not overwhelming credentials, though--Keith Hernandez was much better than either of them, but he was ignored. Putting Garvey in over Mattingly would make very little sense to me.

David Kaiser

David Kaiser


11:06 AM Dec 3rd
 
SteveN
By my count he made 6549 outs.(ab-hits+caught stealings+gidp)

Seems like a lot of cost.​
9:59 AM Dec 3rd
 
RichEddy44
Someone needs to prove Garvey has a better case than all the other first basemen not enshrined - i.e. McGriff, Giambi, Delgado, Helton, Clark, Teixeira etc. This is much more problematic than comparing him to a cherry-picked set of similar (and mostly better) players. Post-season bonus, I'll give you that, it counts. As for how he was viewed at the time; well Ted Williams was derided by sports writers as a non-winning player - should that affect our view of him just because it was based on the thinking of the time? Same goes for Garvey, he was well-respected as a great player but new info that has come to light leads us to believe otherwise both offensively and defensively (regular-season wise that is). But I respect the time and effort you out into your argument.
9:01 AM Dec 3rd
 
ksclacktc
Context.

At the time Garvey played teams valued getting hits over walks much more. It was argued that with runners in scoring position you needed to be aggressive. If it was your job to drive in runs like Garvey, you might expand the strikezone and tried to drive in runs. He was one of the best in the game at this skill. The man was viewed as someone who could flat out hit. And, I'm a Yankees fan. You don't get the respect he did from MVP voters and ASG appearances.

It bothers me a great deal that we now seem to neutralize and call it the only context we need. Going back in time and applying the current standards to those of the past is incorrect.

You can START by evaluating objectively with what we know now, but this needs to be taken further. If the current numbers state someone was overrated, and the people at that time thought he was great, you need to ask why? Not try to end the discussion with his style was incorrectly evaluated at the time.
8:27 AM Dec 3rd
 
ksclacktc
There's an unstated question here. Do we value what a player did at the time he did it, or by standards we respect years and decades down the road?

Gfeltch -" The things that Garvey did on the field were not only highly respected by the fans; they were highly valued by baseball men, inside baseball. These were things that scouts valued, things that got you into professional baseball, things that got you to the major leagues.

We have better tools now to assess the impact of each players efforts. On the other hand it is still difficult to recreate the environment in which a player from the past was making strategic and tactical decisions. I don't really have an opinion on Garvey vis a vis the HOF. I do remember how he was viewed inside and outside baseball at the time (very highly for his play, smirkingly regarding his boy scout image). I also think there is a touch of arrogance by current fans regarding how smart we think we are."

And this! Excellent.​
8:07 AM Dec 3rd
 
ksclacktc
dan holmes "Using many methods to judge a player's worthiness is wise, and a welcome exercise in today's world of WAR and Win Shares or nothing.

I'm a big Hall type of guy. One question I like to ask is "If you tell the story of baseball during Player X's career, would he be a prominent role in the narrative?"

Garvey definitely is a major figure in baseball history from 1974 to the mid 1980s. And I think his popularity does count for something, because well...it's the Baseball Hall of FAME, after all, not the Baseball Hall of Performance. "

Agree with this!
8:05 AM Dec 3rd
 
77royals
Going back to what I said about Whitaker, Garvey either is, or he isn't.

I mostly say he isn't, even though he had some good numbers.

Then I look at this.

1974 NL MVP on a World Series team 102 wins

1975 2nd place to the Big Red Machine

1976 2nd place to the Big Red Machine

1977 World Series

1978 World Series

1980 Lost one game playoff to Houston for division title

1981 World Series champ

1982 Finished 1 game behind Atlanta for division title

1984 World Series

Since the idea of baseball is to win games, and therefore, get into the playoffs and win the World Series, Garvey was on a lot of teams that did that. And I think that deserves credit.

So that pushes him over the edge for me.

If he makes it, I'm okay with that. If he doesn't, oh well.


2:51 AM Dec 3rd
 
johnvgps
Going by JAWS, Garvey is the fourth-best Dodger first baseman not in the Hall of Fame. I'd have to place him second actually, behind Gil Hodges but ahead of Dolph Camilli and Jack Fournier.

Leaving out the steroid guys and active players, I'd rank him behind Keith Hernandez, John Olerud, Norm Cash, Will Clark, Fred McGriff and a couple others. The Hall of Fame voters can pick him ahead of those guys and anoint him if they want, but I just don't see it.
11:42 PM Dec 2nd
 
chrisbodig
pgups6,

I enjoyed your article and its different perspective on Steve Garvey's career, especially making a metric-based argument in favor.

You compared Garvey to Puckett and Rice. Strictly by the numbers, we could put a boatload of people into the Hall by comparing them to those two but they both had something that they share with Garvey: historical importance.

Regarding WPA, Total Bases (TB) and Extra Base Hits (XBH), one has to look at who else is in the mix with those numbers.

Compare Garvey to George Foster (from 1974-81, Garvey's best years):
Garvey: 794 RBI (2nd); 2,346 TB (1st), 448 XBH (5th), 28.8 WPA (3rd)
Foster: 790 RBI (3rd); 2,080 TB (5th), 442 XBH (6th), 28.2 WPA (5th)

Who was better? By these numbers, it looks like Garvey by a nose. The problem is that Foster put these numbers up in 919 fewer plate appearances. Now, Garvey's extra PA are a result of playing every game for those 8 years, which is valuable. But Foster being so close in RBI, XBH and WPA despite the 919 PA disadvantage also explains why Foster's OPS+ is 147 for those 8 years (compared to Garvey's 128).

Having made that point, I wouldn't advocate for Foster in the Hall of Fame while I have no problem with Garvey being in Cooperstown. For me, it's mostly about his historical significance, the Games Played streak, the postseason and All-Star numbers. (The ASG was a BIG deal in the '70's and '80's).

Still, on THIS ballot, Garvey does not make my top 4. He makes my top 8. Yes, big Hall guy that I am, I'd vote for everyone but Mattingly and Parker on this ballot. Not that I would make a fuss to Donnie Baseball or the Cobra; they're better than a lot of guys already in. Just think they each had too few peak years.

Chris
10:15 PM Dec 2nd
 
thedanholmes
I contend that Wins Above Replacement underrates first basemen and overrates middle infielders.

Using many methods to judge a player's worthiness is wise, and a welcome exercise in today's world of WAR and Win Shares or nothing.

I'm a big Hall type of guy. One question I like to ask is "If you tell the story of baseball during Player X's career, would he be a prominent role in the narrative?"

Garvey definitely is a major figure in baseball history from 1974 to the mid 1980s. And I think his popularity does count for something, because well...it's the Baseball Hall of FAME, after all, not the Baseball Hall of Performance.

In 1974, he was voted onto the All-Star team as a write-in candidate. That had never happened before, and I don't think it's happened since. Taken alone, that's an interesting tidbit, but Garvey won an MVP Award, finished second once, was a perennial All-Star, won numerous Gold Gloves, and won two postseason awards. He was a great postseason player, which counts because it really happened. Clutch or not, he was a money player.

I wouldn't have a problem with Mr Garvey getting his day in Cooperstown. And none of the off field stuff matters to me at all, not even a little bit.
9:27 PM Dec 2nd
 
pgups6
Thanks everyone for your comments and feedback.

I think modern analytics are fantastic especially in recognizing under appreciated players like a Raines and Blyleven. But also, let's not lose sight of the Hall of Fame criteria- a player's record, playing ability, and contributions to the teams on which the player played. Like it or not, that is all part of the criteria. The Hall is not just to recognize a player's talent but also their accomplishments.

The new wave of voters seem to discount a player's record like awards and all-star games, but in addition to those, Garvey does have the games played and errorless streaks, which are not insignificant. His playing ability is apparently up for debate, but his ability to drive the ball while still hitting for average cannot be denied. His power was ordinary for a 1B but for a ten-year stretch he not only led all 1Bs in hits (by 200 plus) but he led all 1Bs in power cats- home runs and extra base hits (not a small sample size). And the contributions to his teams are already noted, especially being a critical cog in the Dodgers playoff runs and propelling the Padres to their first World Series. And yes, the playoffs are a small sample size but it doesn’t mean it’s not significant. Actually October baseball is the most significant and should not be completely discounted.

I see a Bernie Williams type fulfilling the contributions to his team measure but falling short on playing ability.

WPA wasn’t the only measure used but sure with the contemporaries like a Will Clark etc we should be open to fact-based arguments to determine if they fulfill The Hall’s stated criteria (and not shy away from them).

In addition, Gfletch makes a great point, that we should also beware and view the numbers based on the context of the era.

Thanks again everyone, enjoying the discussion.
8:50 PM Dec 2nd
 
Robinsong
OPS+ does give Garvey credit for playing in a pitcher's park (though nowhere near as much as the Dodgers or Astros of the 60s). Garvey scores at 117 for his career - a good total, but less than Manny Machado or Matt Kemp or Henley Ramirez or Matt Carpenter. He was an average defender for a first baseman. He was a good player, 38 WAR is a good career. He is a terrible HOF candidate (but then, so was Harold Baines).
7:00 PM Dec 2nd
 
Manushfan
Nice article. Too often when he played, it was Garvey the Uber Boy Scout, first ballot HoF, etc etc yak yak. And then, afterwards, it was Garvey the Uber Fake, the Over-rated King who didn't walk, was real slow, had Andre Dawson's OBP, WAR etc doesn't like him, etc. Cindy.

I'm happy to find the pendulum has swung back at least a Little bit, and we can appreciate him for what he was. A Danged good player. And there hadda be value to what he did, all those teams he was a cornerstone for contended with him, and he was right in the mix there for a long time.

One thing I've noticed and never really seen about Garvey--when it's time to talk about Dodger Stadium, Koufax era, or just later-it's always presented as being a real pitchers' haven, hitters like Willie Davis or Jimmy Wynn or Ron Fairly's stats were not fairly represented because of the tough environment.

But when it's time to include Garvey in this--nope, nada, nothing. Like he played there and so what? Well, if Chavez Ravine stunk for the Davis 'Brothers' and Wynn and Fairly, then gawrsh, it did for Garvey, too. And he excelled there. That---should be written about and extolled.

You don't ever see, 'what if Garvey played in Wrigley/Fenway/ name the good hitter's park' scenario. You see it for say Jimmy Wynn or Frank Howard or whomever. Garvey deserves this kind of a positive slant too. You think he's not going to win a couple three batting titles playing in Wrigley say back then? Gimme a break.

So I appreciate this. I have no real dog in the Hunt so far's him going in-he was NOT a fave player of mine at the time-Rooting for Reds and Astros in the division as a kid instead--but I'm always glad to see someone who has been a punching bag getting a better press than he has of late. Because let's face it, whether you think he should be in the Hall or not, he was as good's some of the usual suspects who just happen to have prettier walk totals, and losing the forest for the trees with him isn't fair.
5:23 PM Dec 2nd
 
Robinsong
This kind of argument is what gets the Hall of Fame to fail to honor the best players. Even using your preferred statistic of WPA, Steve Garvey has over 80 non-HOF ranking ahead of him, including contemporaries with similar skills sets like Will Clark, Rusty Staub, Mark Grace, Kent Hrbek, Keith Hernandez, and Jack Clark. WAR combines the value of slugging and walks and hits. Garvey's power was quite ordinary for a first baseman. To make your comparison, you first limit the list to those who manage to get 200 hits frequently. That is not the relevant comparison set. Bernie Williams was a key player on many championship teams; that does not make him a HOF. Garvey is not one of the best players on the modern era ballot, nor is he one of the best first basemen not in the Hall. He had good Triple Crown stats that led to him briefly being vastly overrated. Thanks to Bill James, we have a better understanding of what wins games now.
5:01 PM Dec 2nd
 
evanecurb
There were lots of anecdotes out there when he was in LA that his teammates didn't like him. I think he got into an actual fistfight with Sutton.

Not enough to keep him out the Hall, but he ain't Mr. Intangibles, either.
3:26 PM Dec 2nd
 
pgups6
Hi Steve,

Yes, the WAR statement was a little snarky on my part. I've just read SO many outside BJO articles where they indicate they'll use WAR as the starting point but it ends up being the ONLY point. So was just letting out my frustration.

And yes, his low OBP does equate to more outs. But he made up for it with extra base hits.

As for outs- Brooks Robinson, Ripken, Jeter, ARod were amongst the leaders in outs made during their prime. And even pre-Angels Pujols hit into a lot of DPs. Understood, these players did more than just hit and nobody is comparing anyone to Pujols during his Cardinals run, but the point being is that it happens to the best of em.

Despite making outs, Garvey still was a top run producer for a decade.
3:19 PM Dec 2nd
 
Gfletch
There's an unstated question here. Do we value what a player did at the time he did it, or by standards we respect years and decades down the road?

The things that Garvey did on the field were not only highly respected by the fans; they were highly valued by baseball men, inside baseball. These were things that scouts valued, things that got you into professional baseball, things that got you to the major leagues.

We have better tools now to assess the impact of each players efforts. On the other hand it is still difficult to recreate the environment in which a player from the past was making strategic and tactical decisions. I don't really have an opinion on Garvey vis a vis the HOF. I do remember how he was viewed inside and outside baseball at the time (very highly for his play, smirkingly regarding his boy scout image). I also think there is a touch of arrogance by current fans regarding how smart we think we are.
3:10 PM Dec 2nd
 
steve161
I very easily "can suspend our sole belief on WAR", as I do not even have a partial belief. Still, it is interesting that Garvey's undoubted accomplishments do not translate into a high WAR number.

The reason, I think, is the low OBP, which not only tells us that he didn't walk, but also tells us that, of his total plate appearances, more than two-thirds turned into outs.
1:33 PM Dec 2nd
 
pgups6
Thank you both for the comments.

Evanecurb, I actually purposely left off those items and wanted to focus it on the numbers. Much of Garvey's narrative is about Mr. Clean turned scandal etc. and just wanted to strip all of that down to his actual play.

MrBryan, yes as mentioned Garvey has a low OBP. And he's slow and hit into a lot of DPs. But the Win Probability and Run Expectancy stats are all encompassing stats and take that into account. Despite his low OBP and hitting into DPs, he still had high Win Probability and Run Expectancy numbers. Isn't that the bottom line, to score runs and win.

12:23 PM Dec 2nd
 
mrbryan
I think this article demonstrates how a Hall of Fame case can be built up for many players by crafting odd combinations of statistics and systematically dismissing or ignoring such enormous flaws as low OBP, poor base running, and grounding into double plays.
11:50 AM Dec 2nd
 
evanecurb
Excellent article. You left out two things that a lot of us take into consideration:

1. He was famous for his play on the field, did well in MVP voting and all-star selections (second most all-star appearances of any non-HOFer, behind only Freehan).

2. he was involved in an off the field scandal that undermined his personal image and reputation.

If number 2 hadn't happened as it did, then the narrative would be

"2. He was famous off the field for his clean cut character and All-American image at a time when the public image of baseball players in general was tarnished by off field scandals such as the cocaine problem."

But he did what he did, his narrative changed, and he didn't make it to the Hall. If his narrative hadn't changed, he'd have made it in on the first ballot.
10:48 AM Dec 2nd
 
 
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