On Monday we looked at players elected by only one of the Halls of Fame, Stats, and Merit. Today we’re going to consider two other groups. First, we’ll look at our solo players, those elected to the Hall of Miller and Eric but not any of the other Halls. Then we’ll check out those who are in every other Hall but have already been eliminated by us or are still in our consideration set but haven’t yet gotten in.
The HoME’s Solo Votes
Three guys we’ve inducted into the HoME, Art Fletcher, Tommy Leach, and Bobby Veach are there in extremely large part because of their gloves. More specifically, they’re there because of the difference between the way most systems calculate WAR, using Rfield, and the way we calculate WAR, using a combination of Rfield and Michael Humphreys’ Defensive Regression Analysis (DRA). We’ve talked about DRA a lot around here. In short, we trust it. And we suggest you buy the book.
Art Fletcher was a shortstop of the 1910s who Humphreys calls the fifth best defensive shortstop ever. Guys in front of him are either in the HoME (Joe Tinker and Ozzie Smith) or were lousy hitters (Rey Sanchez and Mark Belanger). Fletcher led the league in HBP five times and was competent at the plate. With an OPS+ of 100, he could be called an average hitter. And that’s pretty good for a shortstop.
Tommy Leach was a combination center fielder and third baseman whose career ran from 1898 until World War I. Humphreys calls him the ninth best defensive 3B ever. But that underrates him as a player since he was also an outstanding defensive center fielder. Leach led the NL in runs a couple of times, as well as triples and homers in 1902. He was a good hitter, not a great one. But make no mistake, it’s his glove that got him into the HoME.
Bobby Veach was an AL left fielder who played from 1912-1925. It was easy for him to get lost in the minds of some on teams with Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford also in the outfield, but Veach shined just the same. Especially with the glove. Called the seventh best ever in right field by Humphreys, Veach defended very well in both the dead ball ear and the live ball era, which at least suggests that his fielding chops were for real. As a corner outfielder, Veach couldn’t rely on glove alone to get into the HoME. He had to hit too, and he could. He led the AL in hits and triples once, doubles twice, and ribbies three times.
Wally Schang, an AL catcher from 1913-1931, is a HoMEr based in large part on incredible durability. Only Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, and Gabby Hartnett can boast as many seasons of 2.5 or more eqWAR as Schang’s 15. He had a good glove and a plus plus bat for a backstop. And in three World Series wins for three different teams, Schang was excellent. The Hall has elected clearly inferior players in Ray Schalk and Rick Ferrell, and two we like less in Roger Bresnahan and Ernie Lombardi. We think the Halls of Stats and Merit are short by at least one backstop, Wally Schang
Bucky Walters was one hell of a hitting pitcher, so good in fact that he got in a couple of hundred games when he wasn’t on the mound. And I suspect it’s his relative greatness with the bat that both got him into the HoME and the fact that too much of his value came from it that keeps him from the others. Walters could pitch too – lots of Black Ink – W (3), IP (3), CG (3), ERA (2), ERA+ (2), K (1), SHO (1). But he won only 198 games, so Cooperstown wasn’t interested. By
straight WAR, he’s #83 among retired pitchers, which seems low. And it is – he’s up to #69 if we only look at value since the mound moved, and #64 if we don’t count pitchers who aren’t yet eligible. Add a pretty great peak from 1939-1942 when he was neck and neck with Bob Feller for the best pitcher in the game, and was the NL’s best hurler by miles, you have a pitcher who’s over the line for both of us.
We’re still considering Wilbur Cooper, Jose Cruz, George Uhle, Roy White, and Ned Williamson too. Any one of these guys could add to our solo picks. And in a few years when we review the case of Bernie Williams, I think there’s a real shot this list expands by one.
The HoME’s Reluctance
We’ve detailed in the past the reasons we’ve rejected players everyone else have embraced. Here’s we’ll go through the arguments again briefly.
Larry Doby was the first African-American player in the American League. I understand why he’s in the Hall of Fame, and even the Hall of Merit, but I’m a little surprised he makes the cut at the Hall of Stats. See, Doby just wasn’t so great while he was in the majors. Okay, “great” is a relative term. But even at his best, there were much better players. And as a guy with a relatively short career, he needed to be greater at his best. For a bit of perspective, I rank him behind Jose Cruz, Cesar Cedeno, Bernie Williams, Willie Wilson, Johnny Damon, and Brett Butler. There’s not a huge difference between Doby and those guys. But it’s there.
Willie Stargell was very, very, very, very bad defensively. He was Ralph Kiner bad. And then some. Without DRA, Stargell is a borderline candidate. With it, Bob Johnson, Bobby Veach, and Jimmy Sheckard all pass him. While it’s debatable that he has a top-ten bat at the position, it’s not debatable that he loses ground with his glove. We believe he loses enough ground that he’s out.
Hoyt Wilhelm was a relief pitcher. And I’ll cut right to the chase here. Relief pitchers pitch fewer innings than starters, and as such, they accrue less value. We had to decide our disposition on relief pitchers in general and then on Wilhelm in particular. In the end, we decided to go with only two relievers in the HoME. Neither has been elected yet, but we’re quite confident that both Mariano Rivera and Goose Gossage were better than Wilhelm. If we added a third reliever, Wilhelm would be in.
The list of players in the other three Halls but not yet in the HoME is an interesting one. I’ve been voting for Red Faber, Whitey Ford, and Don Sutton for a while. Eric has yet to follow suit. And I was once, and may again be, a Pud Galvin voter. As far as hitters to, the long and low Jake Beckley certainly is a possibility. Same for Joe Medwick, who won the triple crown and the triple slash triple crown in 1937. And Harmon Killebrew is the other guy on this list. He has a lot of the same problems as Willie Stargell, but he probably had a better bat.
Will we go solo again? Stay tuned to find out.