We spend a decent amount of time here linking to and just generally sharing the greatness of Baseball Reference. By the way, you should subscribe to their Play Index. Because we’re frequent users and because ads are no fun, we pay BBREF a few bucks to run ad free. So it’s nice when I’m reminded of the site’s sponsorship possibilities. I think that they stopped taking sponsorships a few years back. And maybe they grandfathered in those who were sponsoring.
I say this because the Hall of Miller and Eric sponsor’s Bobby Veach’s page. Why Bobby Veach? Well, that’s a fair question. When we first looked into sponsorship, there were a few things we had in mind. First, the page had to be available. Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds weren’t. Second, the page needed to be relatively inexpensive. We weren’t using it to drive traffic so much as support a site we love. And third, the page needed to be one of an under-the-radar player who is in the HoME. Enter Bobby Veach.
Veach was a Tiger for most of his 14-year career that ran from 1912-1925. He had a very impressive bat, twice leading the league in doubles and once in triples. In a time essentially before Babe Ruth, home runs weren’t so common, and Veach only had 64 in his career. But his OBP was .370, and his OPS+ was 127. He was a plus fielder as well, +30 runs by BBREF’s Rfield. And his straight WAR numbers are solid – six seasons from 4.9-6.7 WAR, plus a 4.2, 3.1, and 2.5 added in there. The real greatness in Veach, however, comes when we adjust Rfield for Defensive Regression Analysis (DRA). His +30 turns into almost +189. He suddenly has eight seasons of 5.3-8.7 WAR, and he’s an easy call for the HoME.
If you don’t run BBREF without advertising, try clicking on one or two of the sponsorship links. Maybe you’ll run into something really cool.
And if you’ve missed any part of this series, not to worry. It’s all linked right here.
Left Field – 1-20
Where are all of the active guys?
I’d like to tell you that they’re coming, but I’d be lying if I did. While we have an active guy on our list next week, left field is a wasteland if we’re hoping to find a future HoMEr. I guess Marcell Ozuna may be a pretty impressive player, but he’s 27 and will need a very nice year to reach 20 career WAR. Maybe Andrew Benintendi or Rhys Hoskins will be something someday. I don’t know. The real answer to the question is that these things come in cycles. Not so long ago Bonds, Rickey, Manny, and Raines patrolled left. Over the last two weeks, we reviewed catchers, and four of the best thirty ever, at least for my money, are active now.–Miller
Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?
Imagine that you were playing Baseball Family Feud. Richard Dawson says, “Top five answers on the board. We asked 100 people Who are the greatest five left fielders in baseball history?” You’re going to answer Bonds, Williams, Henderson, or Yaz without blinking. But would of those 100 respondents have named Ed Delahanty? Nope. Delahanty is known to have hit .400 three times and to have died by plunging into Niagra Falls after being forcibly detrained. But how many respondents do we think would name him a top-five left fielder? If Pete Rose is considered a left fielder, then you know Big Ed ain’t getting a vote. Probably no one alive saw him play a single inning of baseball, but a lot folks have seen Billy Williams or Willie Stargell. A few might have even seen Goose Goslin or Al Simmons. I’d be surprised if even one person out of a hundred dropped Delahanty’s name.—Eric
There are the DRA darlings, Jimmy Sheckard and Bobby Veach. Then there are the Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner, Willie Stargell, Joe Medwick, Lou Brock, Heinie Manush, and Chick Hafey who don’t make this week’s list. Left field is a position where the Hall has messed up quite a bit, more than any other position both by omission and commission. I think it’s possible we disagree with conventional wisdom most on Jose Cruz. He had only three trips to the plate in his All-Star career and received just two votes when he appeared on the Hall ballot in 1994. To most, he’s just another guy form the 1970s and 1980s. I’ve written about him in the past, here and here, so I’ll be brief. The gist of it is that Cruz had almost everything working against him – cavernous ballparks, doubles power, value from walks, contribution across his game rather than dominance anywhere. His skill set wasn’t understood when he was playing, nor is it so well understood by “experts” today. If we’re being honest though, Cruz is right on the edge of the HoME. If we were to dump a dozen guys, I bet he’d be one of them. –Miller
Where do we disagree with one another the most?
There’s not a player on this list about whom we have any real disagreement, at least not by the numbers. I will mention Manny for a brief moment. If I had an actual vote, Manny would have my support, just as he’d have Eric’s. However, I believe my support to be less strong. I could be convinced that his cheating might have been problematic enough for me to withhold a vote. Eric is more from the camp that his punishment was his suspension, not something having to do with a museum. Again, I’m with him. I’m just less confident in my position.–Miller
Joe Kelley is probably our area of biggest disagreement. Miller thinks the Red Sox should start him, and I think he should pitch in relief.—Eric
PS: Just kidding, neither of us thinks he should start.—Eric again
Are there any players who MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate?
I suspect that if we ever have the miracle of play-by-play data for most or all of MLB history, we’ll discover that we’ve underrated Fred Clarke. The guy had a really astute baseball mind, had pretty good speed, and probably took a lot of extra bases. Plus, as a lefty he gains the natural advantage for GIDP avoidance. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if those attributes earned him at least a win’s worth of runs above the -1 BBREF has for Rbaser.—Eric
Unless you dislike the DRA substitution we make, want Manny or Bonds off the list for PED use, or have found some way to hold a grudge against Joe Jackson, I don’t think there are any players in our top-20 who our systems overrate or underrate. Even if Eric is right about Clarke, and I suspect he is, how far up the chart would he move? One spot. That’s it.–Miller
We’ll see you in a week for the next installment of left fielders.