One of my favorite reads ever was How to Lie with Statistics. Darrell Huff’s 1954 book is simple, yet valuable. It basically outlines how statistics are used to draw incorrect conclusions. And with that in mind, I decided to use the invaluable Play Index at BBREF to draw some incorrect conclusions about players appearing on the BBWAA ballot for the first time this year. Again, I’m using this wonderful tool for evil, not for good. Oh, and I’ll later address how people just make crap up.
Casey Blake: There’s not another short(ish) career player (4500 at-bats or fewer) who has Casey Blake’s H, HR, OBP, OPS+, and defensive profile who isn’t in the Hall of Fame.
Pat Burrell: No left fielder has ever been denied by the Hall who was the equal of Pat the Bat in terms of OBP, in HR, in BB, and in terms of his value on the bases.
Orlando Cabrera: The Hall has ever denied a shortstop who has reached Cabrera’s career HR, RBI, and 2B totals.
Mike Cameron: The Hall has never denied a single player – not one – who can match Cameron in H, HR, SB, and Rfield.
J.D. Drew: No right fielder who can match Drew in OBP, SLG, H, and SB has ever been rejected by the Hall.
Carlos Guillen: Not one shortstop with the OBP of Guillen has ever been denied by the Hall if they also can match his HR, SB, and BB.
Derrek Lee: There’s not a single first baseman ever who the Hall has denied with the OBP and SLG of Lee while also posting his 3B and HR numbers (unless they once wagged their finger at Congress).
Melvin Mora: The Hall hasn’t ever denied a third baseman with Mora’s career totals in H and HBP. Not one.
Magglio Ordonez: The Hall has never, ever denied a player with Magglio’s BA and HR total.
Edgar Renteria: Not a single player has been rejected by the Hall if they reached Renteria’s level of OBP, H, HR, and SB.
Arthur Rhodes: If Rhodes doesn’t get into the Hall, he’ll be the first player ever denied with his games pitched and shutout totals.
Freddy Sanchez: No second baseman in history with a batting title, as high a batting average, and as many H and HR as Sanchez has been denied the Hall.
Matt Stairs: Of players with as many games at DH as Stairs, not one bests him in OBP, HR, and GIDP.
Jason Varitek: There’s not a single catcher in baseball history outside the Hall with multiple rings, a .250 BA, and as many homers as Varitek.
Tim Wakefield: Every single pitcher in history with a World Series ring, more wins, and more saves than Wakefield is in the Hall.
Taken as a group, this is just a silly read. I know that. But taken one at a time, in the context of a larger argument, these statistics, or things like them, are sometimes used as evidence.
Jay Dunn of The Trentonian used such reasoning and worse to justify his vote for Jason Varitek.
“Varitek was the catcher when the Red Sox won championships in 2004 and 2007. He was an iron man on both teams, catcher [sic] almost every game not started by knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Probably no one, not even David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez, had more to do with the success of those teams than Varitek did.”
There’s silliness, and there’s simple inaccuracy.
- Varitek was hardly the iron man Dunn suggests. In 2004 nine catchers caught more innings. In 2007 seven did. How many iron men can exist each year?
- Yes, Varitek started most every game that Tim Wakefield didn’t. But the reason Varitek didn’t catch Wake is because he couldn’t. He was so bad at it that after just one month of the 2006 season – just one month without Doug Mirabelli – the Sox shipped Josh Bard and Cla Meredith, quite a haul at the time, to the Padres to get someone back (Mirabelli) who could catch Wake.
- Dunn says that it’s probable no one had more to do with the Sox success in those years. Well, I think we could all agree that WAR is a reasonable measure of success, right? Adding the two seasons together, Varitek is behind David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, and Josh Beckett. But that stat is a little misleading. If we look just at 2004, the captain is sixth on the team in WAR. If we look just at 2007, Tek is eleventh on the team.
- Even still, if he were really valuable on two World Series winners, that shouldn’t mean a ticket to the Hall. Pablo Sandoval was the ninth best on the 2012 Giants and the fourth best player on their 2014 winner. Matt Cain was the third best player on their 2010 and 2012 winners. Angel Pagan was the fourth best player in 2012 and the tenth best in 2014. None of those Giants are Hall-worthy. Orlando Hernandez and Paul O’Neill were top-10 players on three Yankee winners. They’re not deserving of the Hall. Tino Martinez and the amazing Ramiro Mendoza were top-ten players on two Yankee champs, and neither one of them can get into the Hall without a ticket.
So the message here is to be wary of weird little statistics. Heck, be wary of much of what you read about the Hall. Too much of it isn’t meaningful. Or even true.