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BBWAA, Hall Logic

Hall Logic: Examining Curt Schilling

schilling-lynching-tweetYou might have heard that Curt Schilling’s tweeting and talking have gotten him into some hot water over the last couple of years. And if you haven’t, how in the world did you find your way to this blog? Welcome! Look to the right. Anyway, Schilling has drawn the ire of many voters, and Eric recently put together an elegant and nuanced argument as to why it might be acceptable to exclude a clearly deserving player from your ballot. What I want to do today is, through the great work of Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs), examine Schilling voters and non-voters to see if anything jumps out – to see if we can classify or categorize these voters.

But first…

Curt Schilling Earned It

I’m sorry, friends, but there’s absolutely no good reason to leave Curt Schilling off your ballot if you judge by what he did on the field. Was he dominant? Yes! Of retired pitchers who pitched after the era where you had to throw underhand, Schilling has the best K to BB ratio ever. And he struck out 300 or more on three occasions. Did he pitch well when it counted? Yes! You might remember the bloody sock game or the World Series MVP performance in 2001. Schilling posted an 11-2 career playoff record with a 2.23 ERA. But was he durable enough? Yes, there are 22 Hall of Fame pitchers who threw fewer innings. The only thing Schilling doesn’t have enough of is wins. Except that he does! There are 23 Hall of Fame pitchers with fewer wins. And in terms of WAR, a simple enough and accurate enough go-to for a quick answer, Schilling is 26th all time among pitchers. He beats Tom Glavine, Jim Palmer, John Smoltz, Bob Feller, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Jim Bunning, Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, and a bunch of other Hall of Famers.

Yes Votes for Schilling

Those who supported Schilling for induction made what I think was the correct decision. Generally speaking, I believe Schilling voters to be thoughtful voters who consider a player’s value and put non-baseball issues aside. Based on that, I suspect they’d support deserving players more than the BBWAA as a whole. And I suspect they’d support undeserving players less than the BBWAA as a whole. Let’s talk a look at those who received at least 20% of the vote by one constituency or the other. First, those who would have received my vote and then those who wouldn’t have.

Deserving Player    Schilling Voters    Total Voters
Jeff Bagwell        93.7%               86.2%
Barry Bonds         65.8%               53.8%
Roger Clemens       66.5%               54.1%
Edgar Martinez      70.9%               58.6%
Mike Mussina        72.8%               51.8%
Tim Raines          91.8%               86.0%
Manny Ramirez       24.1%               23.8%
Ivan Rodriguez      82.3%               76.0%
Larry Walker        25.9%               21.9%

So what we see here conforms perfectly to my hypothesis. Each of the nine other players on my ballot received a higher percentage of votes among those who voted for Schilling than they did among those who voted against him. Manny is quite close, essentially a dead heat, but Manny is my toughest call. Now let’s examine those who I don’t think deserved support.

Undeserving Player   Schilling Voters   Total Voters
Vladimir Guerrero    70.3%              71.7%
Trevor Hoffman       69.0%              74.0%
Fred McGriff         12.0%              21.7%
Lee Smith            25.3%              34.2%

Once again, every single one of these vote percentages is lower among Schilling voters than among total voters. Again, my hypothesis that Schilling voters are more likely to look at advanced metrics and put aside his post-career nonsense is supported.

No Votes for Schilling

Given that I think the pro-Schilling position is the correct one, and that I think pro-Schilling voters are more enlightened than voters on average, you can probably predict that I think the 55% who voted against Schilling will be more likely to support the undeserving candidates, particularly Fred McGriff and Lee Smith. I can’t make a particular prediction as to how deserving candidates will make out, though the WAR candidates who don’t have much narrative, guys like Edgar and Walker, I think will be dinged among the anti-Schilling crowd. Let’s see.

Deserving Player    Non-Schilling Voters    Total Voters
Jeff Bagwell        82.6%                   86.2%
Barry Bonds         54.2%                   53.8%
Roger Clemens       52.9%                   54.1%
Edgar Martinez      53.5%                   58.6%
Mike Mussina        42.6%                   51.8%
Tim Raines          84.5%                   86.0%
Manny Ramirez       25.2%                   23.8%
Ivan Rodriguez      76.1%                   76.0%
Larry Walker        18.7%                   21.9%

There’s actually not a lot to see among this group. Yes, Edgar and Walker took a little hit, but I would have predicted it would be a bit higher. The guy who took the biggest hit among non-Schilling voters compared to overall was Mike Mussina. I certainly should have seen that coming. The BBWAA does an incredibly poor job as a group understanding what constitutes greatness among starting pitchers of the last 30 years. Yes, they can identify Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux, but they don’t do well among absolute no-brainers, and they don’t do well among guys short of 300 wins. I should have known Mussina would do poorly with this group.

Undeserving Player     Non-Schilling Voters    Total Voters
Vladimir Guerrero      73.5%                   71.7%
Trevor Hoffman         78.7%                   74.0%
Fred McGriff           23.2%                   21.7%
Lee Smith              40.0%                   34.2%

All four of the players I’m calling undeserving did better among non-Schilling voters. To my surprise, McGriff did just a little better. On the other hand, as I expected, Smith did a lot better. The votes that should go to the game’s best starters are going to the game’s best relievers. And I think the answer as to why is pretty clear. Relievers of the last 30 years have the best save totals of all time; starters of the last 30 years lack strong win totals compared to pitchers of earlier eras. I think the BBWAA misunderstanding can be explained that simply – they’re paying far too much attention to counting statistics that do a poor job describing greatness.

Schilling Droppers

This is an interesting class of 35 voters. On one hand, they voted for Schilling to begin with, which makes me think they’re smarter than voters on average. On the other hand, they very possibly based their opinion to drop him on actions having nothing to do with baseball many years after his retirement.

Of these 35 voters, 22 (62.8%) had 10-man ballots. That’s compared to just 51.8% of overall voters who filled up. What I’m suggesting here is that this group of writers might have just decided to punish Schilling once, or they might have decided that there are more than ten deserving candidates on the ballot And since they’re not allowed to vote for all deserving players, they’re just going to vote for ten they choose. In other words, I’ll give this group a pass on Schilling (for a moment). I’m concerned with the 13 un-full ballots that dropped him.

These voters, generally speaking, I’d identify as playing morality police. I expect that they’ll be lower than average on nearly everyone and that they’ll be especially low on Bonds and Clemens, two players who certainly are having their vote totals deflated by a moral, ethical, or character objection.

Player              Schilling Droppers   Total Voters
Jeff Bagwell        84.6%                86.2%
Barry Bonds         15.4%                53.8%
Roger Clemens       15.4%                54.1%
Vladimir Guerrero   69.2%                71.7%
Trevor Hoffman      84.6%                74.0%
Edgar Martinez      84.6%                58.6%
Fred McGriff        23.1%                21.7%
Mike Mussina        69.2%                51.8%
Tim Raines          92.3%                86.0%
Manny Ramirez        7.7%                23.8%
Ivan Rodriguez      61.5%                76.0%
Lee Smith           23.1%                34.2%
Larry Walker        23.1%                21.9%

So it’s no surprise that this group is indeed voting for fewer players overall. Whenever you eliminate all full ballots, that’s going to happen. You can see above, though, that some of the percentages are close, while others are quite divergent. Bonds and Clemens were crushed among this group. Manny also did quite poorly. And Pudge wasn’t well represented either. PED use and speculation really hurt all of them. On the other hand, there’s little to point to regarding why Mussina did well and why Edgar was a star among this group.

I wish the moralizers didn’t vote.

Still, some made sense, in what they wrote, if not in their decision.

  • David Ammenheuser said he ran out of room for Schilling and would have voted for 13.
  • Greg Cote said Schilling and Mussina were close misses for him.
  • Evan Grant said that Schilling was his #13.
  • Doug Padilla said that more than ten were deserving, but he didn’t specifically discuss Schilling.
  • The same is true of Adam Rubin.
  • John Perrotto addressed Schilling by saying it wasn’t about politics, just that there wasn’t enough room on his ballot.
  • For Mike Vaccaro, Manny replaced Schilling.

And others were clearly about politics, or something.

  • Jon Heyman called voting based on politics absurd and that lynching journalists is not a political view. But he also said that there were ten other players he was “happier” to vote for.
  • Dave Krieger said his ballot had eleven players on it, so he removed Schilling “for being a dickhead.”
  • Lyle Spencer said that he doesn’t know if he voted for Edgar or Schilling. Seriously. I guess I’m a moralizer too; I think if you don’t even know who you voted for, you likely don’t care enough to deserve a vote.
  • Mark Faller certainly made it about politics saying, Shilling’s plaque “hanging, so to speak, in Cooperstown one day” will be without his help.
  • Dejan Kovacevic was very direct, saying that Schilling’s “behavior represents the antithesis of the character clause…”
  • Perhaps the ultimate moralizer and user of poor logic, Dan Shaughnessy, admitted that he is “putting Schill in a corner for this year.”

Schilling Adders

Hmm, I have very little idea what to think about this group. I suspect they they had pretty full ballots. I also suspect they voted for Mussina in large numbers. If there were only a few such voters, I might think they share Schilling’s political views, but there are 18. I can’t imagine there are so many voters who share his views and would vote based on politics. I just can’t predict how this group will vote. Let’s take a look at some numbers.

Player              Schilling Adders   Total Voters
Jeff Bagwell        94.4%              86.2%
Barry Bonds         61.1%              53.8%
Roger Clemens       66.7%              54.1%
Vladimir Guerrero   61.1%              71.7%
Trevor Hoffman      77.8%              74.0%
Edgar Martinez      55.6%              58.6%
Fred McGriff        16.7%              21.7%
Mike Mussina        50.0%              51.8%
Tim Raines          100%               86.0%
Manny Ramirez       11.1%              23.8%
Ivan Rodriguez      93.3%              76.0%
Lee Smith           33.3%              34.2%
Larry Walker        16.7%              21.9%

Well, one thing is for sure – this group did vote for a lot of players. Two-thirds of them had full ballots. Mussina didn’t have big numbers overall, but seven Schilling adders also added him. Seven Schilling adders also added Bagwell, six added Raines, and five added Edgar. Unfortunately, none of them explained why they added Schilling this year. In fact, I found something resembling a Schilling add explanation from only one voter, Jeff Schultz, who said he’s gone back and forth on Schilling, having nothing to do with the guy’s politics. That’s something, I suppose.

Conclusions

Not surprisingly, the story of Curt Schilling is complicated. Guys who voted for Schilling, predictably, were better than the average voters. Guys who voted against, predictably, were worse. I suspect Schilling will gain a number of votes he lost this year and that he’ll begin to climb his way toward election. However, he’s already exhausted half of his BBWAA eligibility. I don’t know that he’ll be able to reach the magical 75% in the next five years.

Miller

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