Congratulations to the newest members of the Hall of Miller and Eric: Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller, Joe Gordon, Tommy Leach, Jimmy Sheckard, and Vic Willis reach the HoME with our 1966 election. Together, they bring our HoME total to 81 of the greatest players in the game’s history. Only 128 more to elect, pending what the BBWAA does next month.
Per our rules, players have to be named on both ballots for induction. Here’s how we voted.
Miller Eric 1 Ted Williams Ted Williams 2 Jackie Robinson Jackie Robinson 3 Bob Feller Bob Feller 4 Pud Galvin Joe Gordon 5 Joe Gordon Tommy Leach 6 Tommy Leach Bill Terry 7 Jimmy Sheckard Pee Wee Reese 8 Vic Willis Urban Shocker 9 Red Faber Vic Willis 10 Jimmy Sheckard
Ted Williams: The “Splendid Splinter” once said that he wanted to be known as the greatest hitter who ever lived. Well, Pablo Picasso may not be the greatest artist who ever lived. But he’s still Pablo freakin’ Picasso. You know that he was the last player to hit .400 and won two MVP Awards and two triple crowns. What you might not know is that there would have been a third had George Kell just made one extra out in 1949. And what you also probably didn’t know was that he averaged 10+ oWAR for the two years before and the two years after the three-year WWII “break” he took. Give him his average season from ages 24-26, and you’d have, at least by oWAR, the greatest hitter who ever lived.
Jackie Robinson: It would be arrogant to think that I have anything to add to the Jackie Robinson discussion, but let me try. Branch Rickey told Jackie that he needed to be humble, patient, and strong. Robinson was, no doubt, all of those things. The man’s character is evidence. And perhaps his performance is too. In his rookie season of 1947, the second baseman laid down 28 sacrifice bunts, once every 25 times he stepped to the plate. For the rest of his career, he sacrificed himself only once in 67 times he came to bat. Was Robinson’s play as a rookie emblematic of someone who just wanted to be part of the team? Perhaps it was.
Bob Feller: In 1939 and 1940 and 1941 Bob Feller led the AL in wins, innings, and strikeouts. When Pearl Harbor was struck, he became the first American professional athlete to enlist in the military. In his next two full seasons after missing 1942-1944 and much of 1945, he again led the AL in wins, innings, and strikeouts. Replace those missing seasons with the average of the five years we’ve discussed, and you have the #11 man in wins and whiffs and the #17 man in innings all-time. And he’s up to #15 in history in pitcher WAR.
Joe Gordon: With nine All-Star games and a 1942 AL MVP, it’s no surprise that the 2009 Veterans Committee found it wise to elect the Yankee and Indian star second baseman. As a short-career player, only eleven seasons, Gordon needed to have a great peak, which he had. He played well above All-Star level in every one of his full seasons from 1939-1948. A great hitter, it’s still his defense that puts him over the top. At #31 in history in Rfield, he looks quite impressive. In DRA, he’s #29 of players in our database. When different fielding metrics see a player as equally great, we can probably trust them. And that level of trust plus elite offensive contribution at his position make “Flash” a member of the HoME.
Tommy Leach: This is why the HoME exists. The Hall of Merit has done outstanding work. The Hall of Stats is fascinating, and the personal Halls of Hall of Stats founder Adam Darowski and other bloggers represent work that’s standard deviations better than that which has been done by the Hall of Fame. But not one of these experts puts Tommy Leach in the Hall. I’ll explain why we do – but first I’ll explain who he was. Leach was a center fielder and third baseman, who occasionally played left field and shortstop, for the Louisville Colonels, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Chicago Cubs from 1898-1915, with a few 1918 games thrown in. He didn’t have much Black Ink – a HR title and a 3B title in 1902 go with a pair of R titles in 1909 and 1913. That’s it. But he must be one of those WAR darlings, right? Nope. Until the second week of April when he’s passed by David Wright, he’s tied for #337 in history.
But that’s before we make adjustments. There are two key adjustments that pertain to a guy like Leach. First, we have to look at games played. Leach is tied in WAR with Miguel Tejada, whose teams routinely played 162-game seasons. Leach’s teams played in 149 games per year, on average. He needs to be compensated for that difference. But let’s face it, that difference is pretty small. The real boost Leach gets is on defense. According to Rfield, Leach was a good defender, but not a great one. His dWAR is relatively in line with his overall WAR, #310 in history. But we don’t feel dWAR captures Leach’s greatness. According to Defensive Regression Analysis (DRA), Leach is among the top ten defenders of all time – great at both 3B and in CF. Defense and schedule add about 18 wins to his value. Add to that the relative weakness of his positions compared to others, and you have someone within the top 15 at either position.
Eric will write more about Leach, DRA, and how we arrived at this decision in a week.
Jimmy Sheckard: Sheckard’s case is similar to that of Tommy Leach in a couple of ways. First, he’s acknowledged as a Hall of Famer by very few experts. And second, it’s his underappreciated defense that puts him over the line. A left fielder for 17 mostly NL seasons when left played a lot like center does today, Sheckard brought a wide array of skills to the diamond. Need power? He led the NL once each in triples, homers, and SLG. How about speed? He led twice in SB and once in R. He could get on base, as two BB titles and an OBP title suggest. And he wasn’t afraid to give himself up for the good of the team, twice leading the NL in sacrifices. All of that is well and good, but it’s elite defense, which may have been better than Leach’s, that gets him into the HoME.
Vic Willis: Although he had been on the ballot since 1916 and Eric had been voting for him all along, Miller didn’t deem him worthy until this election. By his new calculations, Willis is around #50 among starting pitchers. While he’s always been near this range, the confidence interval hadn’t been high enough before now. He really only had four great seasons, and those seasons were interspersed with less-than-greatness, so he wasn’t ever the game’s best. But he did win 20 games on eight occasions and finished his career with 249 in the win column. With only 150 seats in the HoME, he wouldn’t make it. With just north of 200, he’s deserving.
Every once in a while we change our minds on certain players. Eric voted for Jim McCormick for a while and then withdrew support. Miller did the same for Bid McPhee. And now, for the third time in HoME history, we have a player losing support. Miller is no longer voting for Three Finger Brown.
Mordecai Brown: Brown had always been a guy near my borderline. He’s still near it, just on the wrong side right now. As you may have read a couple of days ago in my methodology piece, I’ve begun to incorporate parts of fWAR. And fWAR hates Brown. Kind of. In his very best seasons, he allowed a lot of balls in play that the likes of Joe Tinker, Jimmy Sheckard, and Johnny Evers turned into outs. Ordinary fielders would have made a similar pitcher look far less great. While I can’t promise I won’t vote for Brown in the future, he’s out for this election.
Each season, some guys are elected, while others receive votes from only one of us. Below we’ll explain our reasons for such votes.
Pud Galvin: Undeterred by my new methodology, I continue voting for Galvin. As a career candidate, he stacks up well by any system. And have I mentioned the 365 wins and 6000+ innings?
Red Faber: No matter what measure I choose, I continue to find Faber a reasonable selection. While the shape of his career is different, his value is very much like that of 1966 HoMEr, Vic Willis.
Bill Terry: In my system, Bill Terry is George Sisler 2.0 except that he has fewer crappy years at the end, but a little less peak. There’s so little difference between them, and they are far enough over the line that I’m comfortable putting Terry in to join Sisler.
Pee Wee Reese: While he was never a dominator, he was no slouch either. He had numerous All-Star level years and a few down-ballot MVP kind of seasons in that mix. In fact, he led NL SS in BBREF WAR in 1942, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, and 1954. Second in 1950, and 1953. He led all MLB SS in BBREF WAR in 1949 and 1954. He finished second in 1942, 1946 (tied with Appling), 1947, 1949, and 1953. I’m not usually the kind of voter who goes after long-and-low types, but what surprised me was that Reese wasn’t that low. He’s not a Jake Beckley at all. His absolute peak (5 years) and career value are comparable to Eddie Murray, Graig Nettles, Tony Gwynn, and Sherry Magee in my system. Actually, Murray is a great angle to take on Reese because Steady Eddie and Reese occupy a similar spot at their respective positions, just over the line. However, I think we’re likely to take a couple extra shortstops and maybe extra first basemen, so I’m not at all minding taking a lower-end guy whose credentials match mid-tier HoMErs at other positions. As an aside, this positional issue arises because shortstop is so stacked historically. Presumably this has to do with the fact that the best athletes and most talented men play short.
Urban Shocker: To my way of seeing things, Shocker is Stan Coveleski-lite but a little more attractive than Rube Waddell and Joe McGinnity. While Shocker’s peak isn’t quite as high as those two, he has more good shoulder seasons, enough of them, in fact, that he pushes decently far above them in my rankings. Shocker doesn’t have the glitz and glam of the strikeout titles and the doubleheader wins. He’s just a guy who got hitters out and was very, very effective. Just like Coveleski.
Please visit our Honorees page to see their plaques and to see more information about the HoME and those who have been elected.