We Got Standards

January 20, 2017
               The quality of players now being elected to the Hall of Fame is better than it has ever been, except for the "start-up" phase of the Hall of Fame, 1936 to 1942, when the voters could cherry-pick the biggest stars from baseball’s first six decades.   The history of Hall of Fame selections can be divided into three eras:

           &nb​sp;  1)  1936 to 1942, when players like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson were the Hall of Fame’s first settlers,

              2)  1945 to 1971, when (after a two-year hiatus), the quality of players selected spiraled downward for a little more than a quarter of a century, and

              3)  1972 to the present.   From 1972 to the present the quality of players selected has gotten gradually but consistently stronger, and is stronger now than it has ever been (except for the start-up phase.)  

              I did a little research here, after reading something on twitter to the effect of "Are we selecting the Hall of Pretty Good, now?"   Of course I’ve read stuff like that for forty years, but. . .how do we know?

              I sorted Hall of Famers into three groups.   Group 1, the "A" Level Hall of Famers, are the guys you think about when you hear the words "Hall of Famer"—Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux, George Brett, Johnny Bench, Mike Schmidt, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Tony Gwynn, those kind of players.   

              Group 2, the "B" Level Hall of Famers, are the players who maybe aren’t Joe DiMaggio or Babe Ruth, but when you think of them you think, "Yeah, OK, he’s a Hall of Famer."   Billy Williams, Wade Boggs, Duke Snider, Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Goose Gossage and Ron Santo are "B" Level Hall of Famers.  

              Group 3, the "C" Level Hall of Famers, are the players who have been selected to the Hall of Fame, but usually after a longer wait, and in many cases there are other players not selected who were just as good or better.   Phil Rizzuto, Johnny Evers, Rick Ferrell, Ray Schalk, Chick Hafey, Rube Marquard, Rube Waddell, Earl Averill and Vic Willis are "C" Level Hall of Famers.  

              The players are sorted into "A", "B" and "C" groups by strictly objective criteria.   Formulas.   Things like career hits, Most Valuable Player Awards won, leading the league in Home Runs and RBI, etc.  I won’t explain the formulas today, because it’s a digression from what we’re doing, but I’ll give you the formulas in the next article, published in a couple of days.   Later in this article I’ll give you a full list of who is in which group.

              But for now. . .let’s consider an "A" Level Hall of Famer as "3", a "B" Level as "2", and a "C" Level as "1".    There are 217 players in my study; I didn’t study executives, Negro League Players, or "split career" players who played half their career in the Negro Leagues before the color line broke.  I excluded a couple of guys like Candy Cummings who were players but were selected as innovators, rather than as players.    I studied the 217 players selected from the American and National Leagues.     I marked 30% of these as "A" Level Hall of Famers, 40% as "B" Level Hall of Famers, and 30% as "C" Level Hall of Famers.

              Of the 217 players, 122 were selected for the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and 95 by other committees.   Those selected by the BBWAA have been dramatically better than those selected by the other committees.   Of the 122 selected by the BBWAA, 58 were "A" Level Hall of Famers, 53 were "B" Level Hall of Famers, and only 11 were "C" Level or debatable Hall of Famers.   Probably the weakest players ever selected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA were pitchers Herb Pennock (selected 1948) and Ted Lyons (1955). 

              But of the 95 selected by other committees,  only 7 have been "A" Level or inner-circle Hall of Famers, 34 have been "B" Level Hall of Famers, and a clear majority, 54 of 95, have been "C" Level or marginal Hall of Famers.     About 32 players selected to the Hall of Fame by the committees have had weaker careers than ANYONE ever selected by the BBWAA.    Summarizing that in a chart:

 

 

SELECTING GROUP

Level

Level

Level

A

B

C

BBWAA

58

53

11

Other Committees

7

34

54

 

              Almost 90% of the "A" Level Hall of Famers were selected by the BBWAA.   More than 80% of the "C" Level Hall of Famers were selected by the Veterans Committee or whatever it was called at the time.  

              That makes sense; that’s not hard to explain.   The BBWAA gets to choose first; of course they choose the most highly qualified players.   I’m just creating a frame of reference.  

              We have been selecting Hall of Famers for 82 years, or, as Betty White would describe it, the last couple of weeks now.    If we divide the 82 years into three almost equal eras and count the A Level Hall of Famers at 3, the B Level at 2, and the C Level at 1, the average "value" of a Hall of Famer selected from 1936 to 1962 was 2.03, from 1963 to 1989, 1.78, and from 1990 to the present, 2.25.   If we then subdivide the recent period (1990 to 2017) into two 14-year groups, the average is 2.18 in the first half of that, and 2.32 in the second. 

              The average quality has been going up because the number of players selected has been going down, essentially.   The number of "A" Level Players selected in recent years is about what it always has been, but the number of "C" Level Hall of Famers selected has declined.   This chart summarizes the number and quality of Hall of Fame selections in each of the three eras: 

 

 

 

Level

Level

Level

Count

Number

A

B

C

1936 to 1962

70

24

24

22

1963 to 1989

85

17

35

33

1990 to 2017

62

24

28

10

 

 

 

 

 

1990 to 2003

33

12

14

7

2004 to 2017

29

12

14

3

 

              Not counting the orgy of inductions of Negro League Players and executives in 2006 and not counting managers and such like, only 62 players have been voted into the Hall of Fame in the last 28 years, as opposed to 85 in the previous 27 years.    And whereas there were 33 "C" Level Hall of Famers (or debatable Hall of Famers) selected from 1963 to 1989, there have been only 3 such selections in the last 14 years.  

         &nb​sp;    As to why I pinpoint the year 1971 as the turning point of the chart.  .  . suppose that we create a "moving average" of the quality of players selected for the Hall of Fame.   Since the average player is a "2", we can start the average at 2.00.   Then, for each new player selected, we multiply the previous figure by .95, and add in .05 times the value of the most recent entry.   When better players are selected, the moving average goes up; when weaker players are selected, the number goes down.   (We arrange the data within a year so that the best players in the group are always the last ones calculated.)

              The moving average starts at 2.00, increases to 2.40 by 1942, but then drops sharply in the late 1940s.   By 1971 the average is down to 1.69:

 

Year'

0

1

2

 

3

4

5

6

 

7

8

9

1930-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.23

 

2.34

2.37

2.36

1940-

2.36

2.36

2.40

 

2.40

2.40

2.16

1.88

 

2.00

1.90

2.01

1950-

2.01

2.11

2.15

 

1.99

1.94

1.89

1.90

 

1.90

1.90

1.91

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1960-

1.91

1.92

1.93

 

1.90

1.90

1.90

1.96

 

1.91

1.84

1.82

1970-

1.70

1.69

1.70

 

1.76

1.85

1.78

1.74

 

1.78

1.75

1.78

1980-

1.86

1.92

1.99

 

1.94

1.92

1.89

1.87

 

1.88

1.89

1.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1990-

2.06

2.05

2.10

 

2.14

2.13

2.07

2.06

 

2.01

2.06

2.15

2000-

2.13

2.07

2.06

 

2.11

2.19

2.17

2.12

 

2.20

2.19

2.21

2010-

2.21

2.19

2.17

 

2.11

2.19

2.21

2.24

 

2.30

 

 

 

              The number starts to creep up after 1971, although it remains flat through the 1970s.   But gradually, the number starts up, reaches 1.9 in 1980, 2.0 in 1990, 2.1 in 1992, 2.2 in 2007, and 2.3 in 2017.  

           &nb​sp;  What else happens in 1971?   Bob Davids founded the Society for American Baseball Research in 1971.   It is possible—I will let you all reach your own conclusion—it is possible that the quality of selections began to improve about then due to the increased information flowing into the discussion from SABR.    (If you start the moving average at 3.00, rather than 2.00, or if you weight each new selection at 4% or 7% or 10%. . ..if you do anything like that you get different numbers, but the same conclusion.   What counts is the conclusion, not the numbers.) 

              Well, to this point we have been discussing players mostly as abstractions.   I’ll share my formula with you in the next article, but I will say here that there is only one player for whom it seems to fail at an embarrassing level.  The formula for whatever reason pegs Roberto Clemente near the top of the "2" group—the central group—rather than being an "A" Level Hall of Famer.    Other than that. . . I’m comfortable with all of the classifications.   Not saying they are all RIGHT, you understand; they’re all REASONABLE.   If you pulled a baseball fan out of the cheap seats at Wrigley Field and asked him to sort Hall of Famers into three levels, this is what you would get for four players out of five.   First, the "A" Level or Defining Hall of Famers, alphabetically.   There are 65 of them:

 

First

Last

 

First

Last

 

First

Last

Hank

Aaron

 

Charlie

Gehringer

 

Eddie

Murray

Pete

Alexander

 

Bob

Gibson

 

Stan

Musial

Cap

Anson

 

Ken

Griffey  Jr.

 

Kid

Nichols

Jeff

Bagwell

 

Lefty

Grove

 

Mel

Ott

Ernie

Banks

 

Tony

Gwynn

 

Jim

Palmer

Johnny

Bench

 

Rickey

Henderson

 

Cal

Ripken

Yogi

Berra

 

Rogers

Hornsby

 

Frank

Robinson

George

Brett

 

Carl

Hubbell

 

Ivan

Rodriguez

Dan

Brouthers

 

Reggie

Jackson

 

Babe

Ruth

Rod

Carew

 

Randy

Johnson

 

Mike

Schmidt

Steve

Carlton

 

Walter

Johnson

 

Tom

Seaver

John

Clarkson

 

Al

Kaline

 

Warren

Spahn

Ty

Cobb

 

Harmon

Killebrew

 

Tris

Speaker

Eddie

Collins

 

Nap

Lajoie

 

Frank

Thomas

George

Davis

 

Greg

Maddux

 

Honus

Wagner

Andre

Dawson

 

Mickey

Mantle

 

Paul

Waner

Ed

Delahanty

 

Christy

Mathewson

 

Monte

Ward

Joe

DiMaggio

 

Willie

Mays

 

Ted

Williams

Dennis

Eckersley

 

Willie

McCovey

 

Dave

Winfield

Bob

Feller

 

Paul

Molitor

 

Carl

Yastrzemski

Jimmie

Foxx

 

Joe

Morgan

 

Cy

Young

Lou

Gehrig

 

 

 

 

Robin

Yount

 

              Next (below) are the "B" Level or center-group Hall of Famers.  There are 87 of them.   They are mostly players that you could describe as great players—300 game winners, many of them, some 3000-hit men, 500-homer men, a lot of MVP Awards in the group.    They’re just not Joe Morgan or Honus Wagner or Stan Musial or Lefty Grove or Randy Johnson:

 

First

Last

 

First

Last

 

First

Last

Roberto

Alomar

 

Tom

Glavine

 

Mike

Piazza

Luis

Aparicio

 

Goose

Goslin

 

Eddie

Plank

Luke

Appling

 

Goose

Gossage

 

Old Hoss

Radbourn

Jake

Beckley

 

Hank

Greenberg

 

Tim

Raines

Craig

Biggio

 

Billy

Hamilton

 

Pee Wee

Reese

Bert

Blyleven

 

Gabby

Hartnett

 

Jim

Rice

Wade

Boggs

 

Harry

Heilmann

 

Sam

Rice

Jim

Bottomley

 

Harry

Hooper

 

Robin

Roberts

Lou

Brock

 

Catfish

Hunter

 

Brooks

Robinson

ThreeFinger

Brown

 

Ferguson

Jenkins

 

Amos

Rusie

Jim

Bunning

 

Tim

Keefe

 

Nolan

Ryan

Jesse

Burkett

 

Willie

Keeler

 

Ryne

Sandberg

Max

Carey

 

Joe

Kelley

 

Ron

Santo

Gary

Carter

 

Ralph

Kiner

 

Al

Simmons

Orlando

Cepeda

 

Chuck

Klein

 

George

Sisler

Fred

Clarke

 

Sandy

Koufax

 

Enos

Slaughter

Roberto

Clemente

 

Barry

Larkin

 

Ozzie

Smith

Mickey

Cochrane

 

Rabbit

Maranville

 

John

Smoltz

Roger

Connor

 

Juan

Marichal

 

Duke

Snider

Sam

Crawford

 

Pedro

Martinez

 

Willie

Stargell

Joe

Cronin

 

Eddie

Mathews

 

Don

Sutton

Bill

Dickey

 

Joe

McGinnity

 

Sam

Thompson

Hugh

Duffy

 

Bid

McPhee

 

Dazzy

Vance

Red

Faber

 

Joe

Medwick

 

Ed

Walsh

Rollie

Fingers

 

Johnny

Mize

 

Mickey

Welch

Carlton

Fisk

 

Hal

Newhouser

 

Zack

Wheat

Whitey

Ford

 

Phil

Niekro

 

Hoyt

Wilhelm

Frankie

Frisch

 

Tony

Perez

 

Billy

Williams

Pud

Galvin

 

Gaylord

Perry

 

Early

Wynn

 

              And these are the "C" Level or more marginal Hall of Famers.   I’m not saying that these players don’t belong in the Hall of Fame.   Probably about half of them do, and the other half got into the Hall of Fame by catching a break somewhere.   There are 65 of these:

 

First

Last

 

First

Last

 

First

Last

Richie

Ashburn

 

Joe

Gordon

 

Jim

O'Rourke

Earl

Averill

 

Burleigh

Grimes

 

Herb

Pennock

Home Run

Baker

 

Chick

Hafey

 

Kirby

Puckett

Dave

Bancroft

 

Jesse

Haines

 

Eppa

Rixey

Chief

Bender

 

Billy

Herman

 

Phil

Rizzuto

Lou

Boudreau

 

Waite

Hoyt

 

Edd

Roush

Roger

Bresnahan

 

Travis

Jackson

 

Red

Ruffing

Frank

Chance

 

Hughie

Jennings

 

Ray

Schalk

Jack

Chesbro

 

Addie

Joss

 

Red

Schoendienst

Jimmy

Collins

 

George

Kell

 

Joe

Sewell

Earle

Combs

 

George

Kelly

 

Bruce

Sutter

Stan

Coveleski

 

King

Kelly

 

Bill

Terry

Kiki

Cuyler

 

Tony

Lazzeri

 

Joe

Tinker

Dizzy

Dean

 

Bob

Lemon

 

Pie

Traynor

Bobby

Doerr

 

Freddy

Lindstrom

 

Arky

Vaughan

Don

Drysdale

 

Ernie

Lombardi

 

Rube

Waddell

Johnny

Evers

 

Ted

Lyons

 

Bobby

Wallace

Buck

Ewing

 

Heinie

Manush

 

Lloyd

Waner

Rick

Ferrell

 

Rube

Marquard

 

Deacon

White

Elmer

Flick

 

Bill

Mazeroski

 

Vic

Willis

Nellie

Fox

 

Tommy

McCarthy

 

Hack

Wilson

Lefty

Gomez

 

 

 

 

Ross

Youngs

 

              Of the first 17 players selected for the Hall of Fame (1936 to 1942), 13 were the "A" Level Stars, and only 1 was a C-Level Hall of Famer.   That one was Buck Ewing—a legendary defensive catcher, but not an obviously qualified Hall of Famer based on his performance numbers.    That was through 1942.   There was a war on, then, and they had run out of really obvious guys to select.

              And we have to remember what they were dealing with.   There weren’t any real Encyclopedias at the time; there wasn’t any place you could go to see the career batting records of Hugh Duffy and compare them to Goose Goslin and Sam Crawford.   The information that we now take for granted simply did not exist.

              Judge Landis died, the war ended, and they started selecting players.    In 1945 and 1946 nineteen players were selected for the Hall of Fame, two more than the previous population of the joint.    Two of the new 19 were well-qualified stars, Dan Brouthers and Ed Delahanty, but eleven of them were marginal stars, really no better than 40 others who were not chosen at the time.   (The 11 C-Level Hall of Famers chosen in 1945 and 1946 were Roger Bresnahan, Jimmy Collins, Hughie Jennings, King Kelly, Jim O’Rourke, Frank Chance, Jack Chesbro, Johnny Evers, Tommy McCarthy, Joe Tinker and Rube Waddell.)   When those eleven were selected but 40 more just like them were not selected, that created pressure to open the doors for the other guys.  

              Over the years, more and more of them filtered in. . .Eppa Rixey and Ted Lyons from the long-career-as-a-.500-pitcher camp, and Joe Sewell and Jack Chesbro from the one-great-statistic camp, and King Kelly and Roger Bresnahan and Rube Waddell from the super-colorful and really-good-for-a-while pile, and Ross Youngs and Dizzy Dean from the tragically shortened careers group, and Rick Ferrell and Bobby Wallace from the he-was-super-defensively movement.   Who you knew had a lot to do with who got picked.     Guys like Lave Cross and Carl Furillo and Stan Hack and Sherry Magee and Sam Leever and Freddie Fitzsimmons and Bucky Walters and Lon Warneke got left out because they just didn’t have the right pull with the right people.  

              That’s inevitable; life is never perfectly fair, and honors do not always go to those most deserving of them; I think that’s in Ecclesiastes.  Through the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, these kind of players continued to be selected or not selected, you could never tell.

              But gradually, since 1980 really, the doors have shut on those kind of selections, and the standards have improved.     In the last ten years only two C-Level Hall of Famers have been added to the rolls, Joe Gordon in 2009 and Deacon White in 2013.  

              In a couple of days I will share my formula for sorting players with you.   It’s nothing special, just a sorting tool, nothing more.   When I do that I will run the numbers for some of the players who aren’t in but could be.  Thanks for reading. 

 

 

 
 

COMMENTS (38 Comments, most recent shown first)

jwilt
"But gradually, since 1980 really, the doors have shut on those kind of selections, and the standards have improved."

Is improved really the right word? That implies recent selections are better, and previous ones were worse. But a Hall with THE highest standards (i.e. the best standards) would just have Babe Ruth. I don't think anyone really wants that. I think the Hall needs to honor players like Arky Vaughn and maybe even Tinker/Evers/Chance.

Are we really better off with a Hall that includes Tommy McCarthy and Chuck Klein and Rube Marquard, but tells Lou Whitaker and Will Clark and Kevin Brown that there ain't no way they're ever going in? I don't think that higher thresholds for induction are necessarily an improvement.
8:16 AM Jan 23rd
 
jwilt
I wonder how much of the disappearance of C-level selections recently is voters getting more selective, and how much is just The Expansion Timebomb? There are more A- and B-level guys today than 50 or 100 years ago. A lot more. Just trying to get the top guys elected is a big handful. If they tried sorting through everyone as good as Jim Bottomley you'd need a 30-man ballot.
8:08 AM Jan 23rd
 
KaiserD2
About Reese and Rizzuto.

The GI generation (b. 1903-24) included three of the greatest shortstops of all time: Arky Vaughn, Lou Boudreau, and Luke Appling. Boudreau and Appling were helped somewhat by the war but proved they could do it without the war, as well. Although the BWAA unfairly snubbed two of them, all of them reached the Hall of Fame. Joe Cronin is in those guys' class as well. Among the next, Silent generation, by the way, the only shortstop who is in these guys' league is Ernie Banks. Boudreau and Cronin were genuine MVPs on pennant-winning teams, and Vaughan was better than either of them in the context of his league.

Now Reese was one of many players elected because of his teammates. He was over 3 WAA once and over 2 WAA three times. He was about average in 8 of his 15 seasons, including 1941, 1950-2 and 1955-6. That is, shall we say, an unusual record for a Hall of Famer.

Reese's election helped lead to the demand for Rizzuto's election. Those opposing Rizzuto felt it easier, instead of arguing that neither one belonged, to argue that Reese was significantly better than Rizzuto. My reckoning says that Rizzuto was a little better, in fact, at his peak, although Reese was at least average for a substantially longer period. What has not been understood is that Rizzuto's best year was 1942 when he had a fantastic season in the field, saving 37 runs according to DRA. (He had saved 26 in 1941 and Reese saved 13 and 21 in 1941 and 1942. Reese, however, was no good at the plate at that stage of hsi career.) Rizzuto had 4.7 WAA in 1942, 3.5 in 1950, and 2.4 in 1941. After that he was average for three years and substantially below average for two more. Incidentally, you may remember that Rizzuto finished second to triple crown winner Ted Williams for the 1949 MVP. I think the reason was that he was already a media darling, and he was the only player in the pennant-winning Yankee lineup who played a whole season. He was a totally average player in 1949, which also happens to be the year that Junior Stephens had his only superstar season.

Both of these guys, in short, clearly rank in the second tier of shortstops from their generation and I'll let you all take it from there.




7:34 AM Jan 23rd
 
OldBackstop
Yes, gfletch has a good point, but the prospect of Bill explaining his ranking of the HoF, ya know, in a coupla days, is a nice shiny object :-)
10:14 PM Jan 22nd
 
bjames
To Gfletch THANK YOU. Please re-read GFletch's comment.
2:32 PM Jan 22nd
 
steve161
David, I'm not disagreeing. To the contrary, I'm very much looking forward to your book and I hope it has an impact, because anything is welcome that makes a dent in the current mindless hegemony of WAR. I'm not a fan of The Great Stat, but if we have to have 'em, the more the merrier: it might encourage the application of thought.

OBS: is 'hegemony' OK? Another political science word: until now, I didn't realize how much vocabulary I was schlepping along from my student days.
1:40 PM Jan 22nd
 
Gfletch
All these comments about where individual players rank under Bill's method for this article are kind of irrelevant, aren't they? It's not about trying to create a new and more accurate method for assessing players, it's about answering the question of whether or not the quality of players being selected for the HOF is rising or falling. It's more than adequate to that task.
1:23 PM Jan 22nd
 
CharlesSaeger
5-10 singles a year difference between Reese and Rizzuto is about 3-5 runs a year, which is about the difference in their fielding. When you have half those hits be home runs, however, it becomes 5-10 runs difference, and another 7 or so runs the 20 extra walks Reese drew, there's no comparison. The gap between Reese and Rizzuto was about 10-15 runs a year even including fielding, and Reese also played 500 more games.
12:19 PM Jan 22nd
 
Edward
How fitting that Tinker-Evers-Chance remain associated with the C so many years after their playing days.​
7:56 PM Jan 21st
 
OldBackstop
Note: I said below that Amos Rusie was listed as an "A", he is actually a "B."

(Which isn't what I learned bouncing on Gramma Rusie's knee...)
3:53 PM Jan 21st
 
OldBackstop
@steve. I was just thinking if we normalate...nominize...I can't even remember the word you were danging at me. Anyway, I'm not misremembering Bill's guidepost of a career 300 Win Shares or a +100 in Win Shares-Win Losses, right? If that's a standard for going in, wouldn't it, couldn't it at least be worth a glance in tiering members?

(it isn't like Joe Morgan invented it :-))
3:48 PM Jan 21st
 
KaiserD2
Steve,

My book uses WAA, with some important modifications from what baseball-reference does, all thoroughly explained I assure you in the introduction. But it doesn't use total career WAA. The focus is on how many great seasons players had, as my post reflected. Every measurement has its own problems and will occasionally create an anomaly. All I said in my post was that it's interesting to look at these problems from different angles, which give very different perspectives.

WAA incorporates everything batters do for batters and I add Michael Humphreys' DRA fielding data. I also used that data--for teams--in modifying the baseball-reference data for pitchers. The question behind the book, i page after page, is, how many games closer (or further from) the pennant did this player's performance get his team in a particular year?

I'm glad some one else was also surprised by Andre Dawson. He is in the Hall largely because of his MVP season with the Cubs. One of Bill's most fervent articles, with which I entirely concur, was about how he didn't deserve it.
11:11 AM Jan 21st
 
steve161
David, as you say, we haven't seen Bill's formula yet, but it seems to take a number of factors into account. I haven't read your book, either, for obvious reasons, but it seems to rely on one single number, which I assume is intended to consider all or most of those factors, and maybe more on top of them, but by the nature of things hides the way in which they are weighted. I'll take the transparency.

This is also my answer to OBS, as to why not base it on Win/Loss Shares. It's nice to have somebody else do the hard work of coming up with a single number, so that we can treat it as Holy Writ like Brian Kenny with WAR, but (first) it becomes a substitute for thought and (second) as Maris would point out, it ignores everything that isn't countable.

Incidentally, OBS, considering how articulate you are over at Reader Posts, I'm surprised that Goldleaf and I have strained your vocabulary to the breaking point.
9:24 AM Jan 21st
 
jerpol
One other thought I had was that Whitey Ford should be on the A list. But really, an excellent article and breakdown.
8:53 AM Jan 21st
 
KaiserD2
I'm going to look at this from a particular angle.
Although we haven't seen Bill's formulas, it seems clear from the list that they give quite a bit of weight to career stats. I happen to think that career stats can be very misleading as a determinant of greatness, especially in high-offense eras. My own preference, reflected in my forthcoming book, is for peak value, defined as the number of seasons a player had of 4 WAA or more. I'm just going to point out some of the results that Bill got that seem very anomalous if you use my standard instead of his. By my lights he has treated some people much too generously and others quite unfairly. I think people may find this interesting regardless of whom they think is right. (Disclaimer: I didn't rate anyone whose career was mainly before 1900.)

As I may have mentioned before, nearly all players with at least 5 seasons of 4 WAA or more are in the Hall of Fame with the exception of some ineligibles or controversial cases. A lot of people with 4 such seasons are in the Hall but a lot aren't. Catchers are a special category because no catcher has ever had that many.

Looking at Bill's A list, by my reckoning, if Yogi Berra is on it, Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane should be as well. Their lists of peak seasons were very comparable. But Andre Dawson had only 3 seasons of 4 WAA or more and he would be in my group C. Tony Gwynn had only 4 such seasons. Killibrew had only 2, I think, and would be in group C. Winfield had, I believe, 3. Ripken had only 3. (They were monster seasons, but he drops way off after that.)

The B list includes no less than 5 pitchers who in my opinion belong on anybody's A list: Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Hal Newhouser, Pedro Martinez, Robin Roberts, and Dazzy Vance. Newhouser was one of the two most dominant pitchers of his generation and proved in 1946-8 that that wasn't just because of the war. Koufax and Vance had somewhat short careers but were extraordinarily dominant for four years apiece. Neither Palmer nor Seaver had 4 seasons of 4 WAA or more. Among hitters, Wade Boggs had 7 seasons of 4 WAA or more and is definitely A list for me. Barry Larkin is too. So is Clemente who had 12 such seasons. On the other hand, Luis Aparicio, who never had a dominant season; Catfish Hunter, who had one of the more fortunate careers ever; Pee Wee Reese; Enos Slaughter; and Ozzie Smith would be on my C list. None of them even had 3 seasons of 4 WAA or more and Reese and Smith had none.

On Bill's C list, Richie Ashburn is way too low. He would be on my A list with 6 seasons of 4 WAA or more, largely thanks to his great defense. Very similar to Boggs. Joe Gordon had 5 seasons over 4 WAA and Lou Boudreau had 4, making Gordon, at least, an A-lister. Jackie Robinson, by the way, also had 5, and I do not think Bill should have left him out because he played one Negro league season. (That was all.) Dizzy Dean and Rube Waddell are two other pitchers who were much too dominant to be on that list, if you ask me. So is Stan Coveleski. Home Run Baker's achievements do put him on the C list, but I can't help mentioning that he seems to me clear that until Eddie Matthews came along, he was the greatest third baseman of all time.

That's enough. Again, the point of this is just to illustrate how a different way of looking at things gets different results. I do think anyone talking about the Hall of Fame ought to ask, how many points should we give a guy for just showing up? Pete Rose, Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken and Craig Biggio are four examples of players who amassed impressive lifetime totals by playing way beyond the point where they were assets to their team on the field. Rose had 3100 hits or so when he stopped being an average player (and by then he was playing first base.) And of course, while players from the GI generation had their careers truncated by war, players from the steroid era and the 1920s-30s have their stats wildly inflated by the eras they played in. It was Bill James, of course, who taught me to think about those things deacds ago.






8:04 AM Jan 21st
 
ultimate777
What happened to Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella?
4:13 AM Jan 21st
 
shthar
Did it break down into 30/40/30% naturally? Or did you decide before hand that you were going to use those percentages?
12:17 AM Jan 21st
 
shthar
I suspected the Veterans committee would be at the heart of the matter.
12:16 AM Jan 21st
 
OldBackstop
I'll be interested to see the pitchers' formula. Amos Rusie is an A-lister despite leading the league in walks five years in a row. Of course, he led in strikeouts a lot of those years while throwing a a snappy 548 innings per....
11:02 PM Jan 20th
 
esolo25
Andre Dawson is an "A"? In a formula that includes walks? I must be missing something...
8:22 PM Jan 20th
 
jerpol
Yes, I’ve seen that Reese had career totals that were clearly better than Rizzuto. I’ve also compared their individual seasons, I didn’t see differences that were quite as large. For example, Reese usually only had about 5-10 more hits a year than Rizzuto. Of course, if that happens over and over it will accumulate, and the eventual totals will show a considerable difference. Also, if you look at the mid-1950s years, Reese clearly had a longer career. From 1954-56, Reese had 171, 156, and 147 hits. Rizzuto, in his last three seasons in ’54-’56 and into a part-time role, had 60, 37, and 12 hits. I just think that that coupled with Rizzuto being considered slightly better defensively makes the scale slightly less tilted.
7:31 PM Jan 20th
 
337
Jackie Robinson's omission seems odd. He didn't have that much of a Negro Leagues career, did he? Military service and college contributed to his late start, as well--his start isn't much later than Wade Boggs', is it?
6:54 PM Jan 20th
 
bjames
Jerpol. . .Reese and Rizutto are basically the same age; Reese is actually a year YOUNGER, although he came to the majors a year earlier. Both missed the same three years due to the War. Reese had 1,000 more total bases, scored 450 more runs, drove in 300 more, drew almost twice as many walks (+560), stole 100 more bases. Was elected to the Hall of Fame decades earlier. These differences are invisible to you? Do they seem negligible to you?
5:10 PM Jan 20th
 
OldBackstop
@Bill I've always given credence to the 300/100 Win Shares/Losses formula for the Hall. Why not rank them by....I dunno, Shares + the difference? At any rate, I'd be interested to see how Win Shares hold up against this sorting method. (I'm not assigning you the work, jes' sayin' :-))
5:04 PM Jan 20th
 
bjames
You're looking at Vaughan as a BALLPLAYER, rather than as a Hall of Fame candidate. Different thing. As a Hall of Fame candidate, he waited 40 years to be elected.
5:01 PM Jan 20th
 
jerpol
Only a small scattering of surprises here throughout. A few with the shortstops. I don’t understand how Reese and Maranville aren’t “C” hall of famers if Boudreau and Rizzuto are. Rizzuto was a better defensive shortstop than them except for maybe Maranville, and hit .300 in the World Series four times. It’s another example of how glorified the Brooklyn Dodgers are – and more so than the Yankees by those outside of Yankee land.
5:01 PM Jan 20th
 
Robinsong
Just wanted to echo Edward on Vaughan. Bill rated Arky as the number 2 shortstop all-time in the New Historical Abstract. Better than Yount or Banks or Ripken. Sounds like Level A rather than Level C.
4:47 PM Jan 20th
 
bjames
Regarding Yastrzemski and Roberto. . .The basic building blocks of this system are total bases, runs scored, RBI, and walks. Yastrzemski had 1,000 more total bases than Clemente, 400 more runs scored, 500 more RBI, twice as many stolen bases, 1200 more walks. The comparison between them is not close, nor is it really an apt comparison.

I'm uncomfortable with 21 not being in the top group, but a more appropriate comparison is Kaline. . .Kaline and Clemente, both one-team Hall of Fame right fielders born in 1934. Kaline has 360 more total bases than Clemente, 200 more runs scored, about 300 more RBI, twice as many walks (600 more walks), 50 more stolen bases. Kaline is on one side of the line, Clemente is on the other.

In the end, I do believe that Kaline was a greater player than Clemente, but given Clemente's heroic stature, I've never been sure I could convince people of that.
4:01 PM Jan 20th
 
mskarpelos
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11 (KJV)
3:13 PM Jan 20th
 
OldBackstop
With Clemente, if I look at the group above, maybe Yaz sticks out. Six more, of course, years, but only 4.5 more in WAR. Neither had speed or remarkable power...both had one MVP, Clements had more playoffs of course.

Dunno why Bill wouldn't just make it Win-Loss Shares.
2:57 PM Jan 20th
 
wpcorbett
In addition to the first Macmillan encyclopedia, the 1970s marked a generational change in the BBWAA. The last of the “Gee-Whiz” school of sportswriters, the guys who never wrote a discouraging word, were dying out. Fred Lieb in 1980, Dan Daniel in 1981. That generation probably never looked at Macmillan; they were certain they knew a Hall of Famer when they saw one. The younger writers (the men who are old fogeys now) were likely a bit more objective.
One comment about the early Grade C Hall of Famers: Ewing, Kelly, Bresnahan, Collins, Jennings, etc.—those guys were Famous with a capital F. Exactly the kind of players you would put in a Hall of Fame if you weren’t voting by the numbers.

1:18 PM Jan 20th
 
Gfletch
Why does it bother you that "...The formula for whatever reason pegs Roberto Clemente near the top of the "2" group—the central group—rather than being an "A" Level Hall of Famer? I mean, I would probably think of him as an "A" level guy, but probably near the bottom of the top group...so, no big deal that he's standing beside the fence.
10:45 AM Jan 20th
 
OldBackstop
I have to work "normative" into conversations more.....
10:07 AM Jan 20th
 
Edward
Roberto Clemente as a b-Level Hall of Famer may have caught your eye, sure, but not Arky Vaughan as a c-Level? What happened there?
9:37 AM Jan 20th
 
sansho1
I would say that Deacon White's real merit for inclusion was as an innovator a la Cummings, but I don't know to what extent the committee had that in mind.
8:57 AM Jan 20th
 
steve161
Bill, in the past you've said that your Hall methods were intended to be predictive rather than normative, to indicate who was likely to be elected, not necessarily who should be. Will the new formula (to which I'm sure we're all looking forward) be normative?
8:22 AM Jan 20th
 
MWeddell
Regarding what happened in 1971 to constitute a turning point in Baseball Hall of Fame induction standards, Bill mentions the 1971 founding of SABR as a possible factor without pushing the point very far. Maybe, but my impression is that SABR's influence was not very immediate.

I'd also mention as possibilities around the same time (1) the 1969 publication of the first edition of the MacMillan baseball encyclopedia, which probably increased the role of statistical accomplishments over anecdotal evidence, and (2) the early 1973 death of Frankie Frisch, so that 1972 was the last year that he was involved on the veterans committee. Frisch's absence from the veterans committee may not have had an immediate impact (George Kelly in 1973 and Jim Bottomley in 1974) but eventually the veterans committee ceased to vote in as many marginally qualified players.
8:13 AM Jan 20th
 
evanecurb
Dick Allen, Tony Oliva, and Albert Belle were born at the wrong time, I guess. If they had played in the big leagues before 1940, they'd.....oh, that's right. They couldn't. Never mind.
7:54 AM Jan 20th
 
 
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