Who do the experts think should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Last week we answered by comparing several major electoral bodies or stats-based to arrive at their combined 217 consensus picks for the Hall (matching the Coop’s total number). Today we look at the 108 players that didn’t make the consensus Hall but who received minimal support from the electoral bodies or systems we surveyed.
These players fall into a few main groupings. The most populous can be summed up in two words Cooperstown Bloopers.
Among our 108 leftovers, a full 43 received support only from the Hall of Fame (HOF). We could make a lowlight reel of the Hall’s worst electoral moments from this bunch
Most of these guys aren’t even close to electable by any other Hall than the Coop. I personally can make a strong case for Dizzy Dean, Kirby Puckett got kind of close to the HoME, and Phil Rizzuto has his fans among the HOM electorate. Other than that, there’s not much support for any of these guys. There’s a lot of really bad Frankie Frisch–Bill Terry Veterans Committee work here, which comes as no surprise to Hall watchers.
The Hall of Merit (HOM) includes 16 players no other Hall has deemed meritorious. In fairness, they have elected 230 players, 13 more than the rest of the Halls, which means that I’ll be picking on them for doing extra-credit work. And since I am a voting member of the HOM in good standing, that critique includes me. Here’s their unique selections:
The thing that jumps out: The nineteenth century. Other than Groh, Hack, Keller, and Minoso, these are all guys who stopped playing before my father’s father’s people came over from the old country, and I’m 41 years old. As it turns out, the HOM electorate was in its early years composed of lots of 19th Century experts who held sway, and the composition of the HOM honorees shows it. That said, there’s lots to like here, too. Childs, Groh, McGraw, Stovey, Browning, and Gore made it deep into deliberations at the Hall of Miller and Eric (HoME). Joe Start’s got a great argument based on his stature in the 1860s. I’m unconvinced by McVey, Pearce, Pike, Richardson, and Sutton. I’ve left out a couple guys. That’s because the rules of the HOM require voters to provide some kind of credit for military, color-line, and labor-relations interruptions to major league service. Reasonable military-credit scenarios can nudge Charlie Keller over the line. Same for Minnie Minoso with regard to his time lost to the color line. Charley Jones’s case at the time appeared to make the grade when his labor-relations issues were accounted for. Today it’s not as clear since he was elected in the Win-Shares era, not the WAR era. Anyway, more of these fellows have a defensible case than do the Hall’s booboos.
Hall of Spats
As an algorithmic system derived from WAR, the Hall of Stats (HOS) has very high consensus with other WAR-based electors, including Jay Jaffe’s JAWS, and the Hall of Miller and Eric, where we use WAR. The HOS, therefore, has only five unique members. As it turns out, they are all pitchers:
None of these are crazy-town/Pop Haines picks. Cicotte would have made the HOME had he not thrown the World Series. That same is likely true for the HOM. Tommy John is a borderline candidate at the Hall, and he got pretty damn close to the HoME. He has some support in the HOM as well. Babe Adams and Jack Quinn wouldn’t be terrible choices, though both have some deadball-context residue that the HOS algorithm may not quite be picking up. Wilbur Wood has some of the same from those zany early 1970s when pitchers ran up 300+ innings until their arms fell off. Wood could have made the HoME had his relief work been better, or with just one more season of high-quality work as a starter.
The JAWS of defeat
Jay Jaffe’s JAWS has just eight unique members in the Hall of Un-Consensus:
The trick with JAWS is that it is not schedule-adjusted or era-adjusted. That means that it loves 19th Century pitchers with their massive innings totals and concomitant hauls of WAR. Among its position-player favorites, Giles is a surprisingly strong candidate with some support in the HOME ranks. Ditto Bert Campaneris who’s got a very strong case. For lovers of up-the-middle guys, Campy would be a reasonable last-guy-in-the-door selection. Fregosi for the matter is just a tad behind Campaneris. Pinson and Jack Clark are slight head scratchers, but every system has those.
Then there’s me and Miller, your friendly neighborhood Hall Hawks. Our little institution has another eight unique honorees:
Let’s clear out the two outliers first. Wally Schang is the missing deadball catcher that we believe every Hall has, or doesn’t have, as it were. Bucky Walters is perhaps our most idiosyncratic selection, and we chose him partly on the basis of trying to add some balance to the 1940s era.
The rest of these guys have a few things in common. I’ll take them one at a time.
They were first-class defenders.
No reasonable defensive evaluation system has claimed that Leach, Fletcher, Cruz, Veach, White, or Phillips were below average or even average defenders. Win Shares, for example, rates them all highly, especially Leach and Fletcher. Leach and Phillips were so good defensively that in real life they played multiple positions with high marks.
They have even higher ratings by Michael Humphreys’ DRA than they do in WAR.
The worst rating of any of these guys in WAR is Bobby Veach who scores as merely well above average. Leach comes in as one of the best defenders of his generation. WAR has a fairly small range of values compared to DRA. These guys all kill it in DRA, and Miller and I both use a hybrid of DRA and WAR (I use them two parts to one, Miller three parts to one part).
With the exception of Fletcher, their offensive games were highly diversified.
Each of Cruz, Leach, Phillips, Veach, and White ran well. Each of them had OBPs and AVGs above their league’s park-adjusted average, with some variation on which was higher. Four had an ISO above their league’s park adjusted average, and the fifth, Phillips, developed slightly above-average power as his career progressed. Phillips’ batting eye is probably the most singular of the skills these guys showed.
Their offensive context may have obscured their strengths at the plate.
Leach and Veach spent all or much of their careers in the deadball era. Phillips played in the vast Oakland Coliseum early on, and played through the mini deadball era of 1988–1992. Jose Cruz played his home games at the Astrodome, probably the most difficult hitters park in modern baseball. Roy White, a switch hitter, played most of his home games in either old Yankee Stadium, with its notorious Death Valley and dimensions in right center that quickly turned the short porch in dead right into a place where flyballs go to die, or Shea Stadium (during renovations to the Stadium) which was also a tough park for hitters. For his career White OPSed .813 from the left side and .696 from the right despite being a natural righty thrower.
So this one’s pretty interesting. Cruz, Veach, and White were left fielders by trade, and Phillips played it more than any position except second base. None of them appears to have had much of an outfield arm, all of them had speed, and all of them were good flychasers. In the first two thirds of Veach’s career, left fielders were second center fielders. Cruz was good enough defensively to be an average centerfielder in nearly 300 games. Playing in Death Valley, White had to have great range. It is possible that Cruz, Veach, and White could have played centerfield regularly had their teams not had better options there. Or to put it differently, those three played left field because they could be defensive assets there, not because they were lumberers with no place else to hide. Phillips played left because he could turn his athleticism into versatility. Not only was he not a defensive liability in left, he was good enough at it, that he created opportunities for other players to platoon wherever he wasn’t playing. So where usually we see left field as the pastureland of sluggardly sluggers, this collection of players turned that idea on its head by being plus-plus defenders, speedy, and multidimensional batters.
Or at least, that’s what we’re seeing. YMMV.
That brings us to the last 28 guys, all of whom received the support of two surveyed groups.
Both of them went deep into our HoME deliberations, and more positive information about either could put them over the line.
Again, near-last cuts at the HoME. Very, very close calls.
Chosen by both the algorithmic systems.
Bancroft just squeaked by for us thanks to a strong showing in DRA. Jennings just missed.
Kelley just missed for us as well. Now about Jimmy Sheckard. He has a couple things going against him. One, there’s not a lot of talk out there about the idea of deadball left fielders being second centerfielders, even though putout data of the time shows it. Given this, Sheckard’s defense, like Veach’s rises from good or very good to outstanding. Second, he did everything well, just rarely at the same time, so he doesn’t have that gleam. Third, chunks of his career occurred when teams played 130 games, and without adjustments for that, some systems won’t see it. Fourth, he was obscured by Tinker-Evers-Chance.
The HoM elected Averill and Roush and likely would prefer to unelect them now that WAR-based evaluations show how much less effective they likely were than was previously understood. Cedeno and Lemon represent sneaky underrated candidates, and they were both late scratches for us.
The HoME is in agreement with the Hall about Harry Hooper. Yes, his DRA gave him extra value, but it wasn’t enough by itself. It’s the arm, and when you go back and look at his assists totals and how often he led the league then compare to historically great right-field arms from the time when we have PBP-informed runs estimates, you see that Hooper’s arm is severely underrated by defensive metrics. The boost he gets from that comparison put him over the line for us. Still borderline, but there. Sam Rice could possibly get that same boost. He has strong assists totals as well, though he starts out further back than Hoop. As for Big Sam, well, it depends how many 1890s guys you think your Hall should have.
I think the HoME would also pull back on Rixey and Lemon if it could. Bond, Buffinton, Welch, Mullane, and McCormick are JAWS guys ranking highly due to its lack of era-based adjustments. Bond, at least, appears to have strong support in the HoM ranks. That leaves Pierce, Finley, Hershiser, and Appier. Pierce was clearly a rank below the others for us, but as observers of chronological balance, we can certain appreciate that he was tough to leave out and would be a fine borderline honoree for any other Hall. We elected the other three, in agreement with the Hall of Stats, and with a strong tilt toward modern players—whom we believe get short shrift from those who don’t adjust for modern workloads.
Two is the loneliest number
So when you really cull it down from 108, and look at the support that’s out there, only a few guys are well positioned to ascend into the Hall of Consensus should the opportunity arise.
But, you never know. Maybe the Committee to Elect Jim Bottomley has some tricks up its sleeve.