So we’ve finally reached the end of this series. And this, to me, is the big one, looking at how supporters of any individual player viewed other guys on the ballot. This post will be filled with even more charts and numbers than last week (see below). Take some time to digest everything. I’ll try to point out what I see as highlights and lowlights, but if I miss anything you think is meaningful, please share in the comments below. I don’t think this was my strongest series of posts. Next year, I think I’ll look at this week’s and last week’s only, unless there’s something player-specific that just screams out for its own post.
You’re excused if you want to skip this one or if your less than bionic eyes won’t let you read it. It’s a big mess of numbers that I break down below when I discuss each player. I include it here because I put it together, and maybe you see something interesting in here than I don’t.
These two have to be linked together, and voters generally do. As I’ve whined in the past, I have no clue how someone can support one and not the other, but some voters do. This is the only chart that will be combined because I think the tiny nuances are interesting. Two things jump out. First, in only one of two cases in my entire study, we see a case of 100% of supporters of a player, voting for another. In this case, it’s Sosa supporters backing Clemens. How someone who thinks Sosa belongs in the Hall won’t vote for Bonds is beyond me. But so is people who think the earth is flat. I’ve got some blind spots, apparently. The other thing, and it’s a small one, is that there’s a decent separation between support for Clemens and Bonds among Rolen voters voters. But I suspect the gap is meaningless.
Two things jump out here. First, if you vote for PED users, you don’t like Helton. Second, the top three guys on the list likely have some significance. Helton belongs in the Hall, and if you believe Rolen does, you support Helton more than anyone else does. They’re both under-the-radar, no-brainer candidates in my mind. Walker is second on the list. That’s because if you’re willing to vote for a player whose career included a significant number of games in Coors, it’s harder to leave off Helton than if you’re not. And finally, it’s McGriff. More than one in five who supported him saw a better first baseman and just couldn’t leave his name unchecked. Of course, almost four in five could…
Not much to see here, but look who’s at the top once again.
In my fantasy baseball days, in only played in a league that had live auctions. We’d all get together in a room to spend about ten hours forming our teams. I was pretty successful overall, and I think I did a good gob reading the room. But there was one guy, Bart, who was on the lower side of owners in terms of player and game knowledge (or so I thought), yet I could never figure him out. Kent voters remind me of Bart. I don’t know why they do what they do. But check out the top three names – three guys who I don’t think you should support.
Like the supporters of a lot of non-PED guys, it’s the PED guys who are trailing here. And what do you know, 98.5% of voters who supported Rolen also supported Martinez.
This list generally makes sense. However, though I understand why McGriff supporters would support Helton, I don’t know why Helton supporters necessarily support McGriff.
Every public voter who checked Andy Pettitte’s name checked Mussina’s too. That makes sense, as Mussina was better. Looking down the list, supporters of Schilling and Halladay thought a little less of Mussina, which makes sense too. It’s easy to think Mussina was a lesser pitcher. Of course, Mussina is a clear Hall of Famer. Look where we find Rolen voters.
Given how few votes Pettitte garnered, there’s not much to see here. However, it’s no surprise that there are PED users occupying four of the top five spots on this list.
Nothing but guys associated with PEDs at the top of this list. There are no huge surprises here, though I’d have bet more than one in sixteen Wagner supporters would have thought Manny qualified.
I’m not surprised that Helton and Walker lead this list. I’m a little surprised to find Wagner this high. At the bottom, we see Sosa, Sheffield, and Kent voters. They likely want more power out of their Hall candidates.
While I wouldn’t have bet on Jones topping this list, I’m not surprised that the top eight are all guys who I think are deserving. As is normal, the bottom three guys all have a PED connection.
Once again, we see PEDs as a voting issue.
The thing we’ve seen almost as much as PEDs being a deciding factor is Scott Rolen voters being much better than average. Fewer Rolen voters supported Vizquel than voters of any other candidate. At the top of Vizquel’s list are a borderline Kent, a borderline Pettitte, and a below-the-line McGriff. Again and again and again, we are reminded that support for Vizquel is associated with understanding greatness less than support for any other player.
See my comments for Sheffield, Sosa, and others.
Ho hum, Rolen voters. And look for the presence of Vizquel voters throughout these lists. For deserving candidates, he’s often lowest on the list without a PED connection.
I’m typing this line just moments before the first pitch of the Yankee-Oriole Opening Day game. To me, it makes sense to finish with Hall coverage about this time. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and even though the season will be more than three weeks old by the time you read this, I hope you enjoy the season too!
In a series that has gone on far longer than I anticipated, today I bring to you a review and a bit of analysis of votes per BBWAA ballot. Generally speaking, I believe ballots with more players are better than ballots with fewer. There were fifteen guys the voters were allowed to review who I support, and there were a handful of others who a reasonable person might. Thus, I would argue a ballot that included fewer than ten names was a mistake. Basically, the fewer the names, the bigger the mistake. I suspect you’ll see some clear trends below, and even if you don’t, I’ll be sure to point them out for you.
At this point, I don’t imagine you’ve missed any part of this series you want to see. But if you have…
We’re going to start with an overall chart. Yes, it’s big and not so easy to read. Alphabetical order doesn’t really make things easier either. The real thing I want to point out here is the public (8.25), private (6.72), and overall (8.01) average names per ballot. You might wonder why all of those numbers are lower than even the lowest number for any individual player. First, our individual players numbers are all public ballots, so we should focus only on the number 8.25. There’s a second reason too. There might be a mathematical term or explanation for this phenomenon, but I don’t know what it is. Let’s take an example though. There are 9.17 names on each public ballot that has Barry Bonds’ name checked. But for those 222 ballots, if you eliminated Bonds (as is the case with all ballots without Bonds’ name checked), there are only 8.17 names per ballot, or below the public average. In other words, the average of all ballots was 0.08 names higher than those ballots with Bonds’ name, minus the credit for Bonds. This little exercise doesn’t take into account that there are plenty of Bonds ballots that would include another name if they were allowed. That’s okay though. It tells us something.
The thing to see here is pretty simple. At least as I would argue it, generally speaking, the more names that are on your ballot, the better you are as a voter. Jones and Rolen voters stand above others by this measure. Those who support Ramirez, Sheffield, Walker, Sosa, Bones, Pettitte, Wagner, Clemens, and Helton make us the next level. The third level includes those who voted for Schilling, Kent, and McGriff. I explain in a section below that I don’t give Schilling voters a hard time for finding themselves at this level. The fourth level sees only Vizquel. His supporters thought less of the candidates overall than the supporters of any other candidate.
This next chart, as with all that follow, shows the percentage of ballots with a particular player’s name checked. In this case, it’s those ballots that have the full compliment of ten names checked. You can see that over three-quarters of all Andrew Jones’ public votes have ten names checked. Almost three-quarters of Scott Rolen’s public votes also checked ten. There’s a sizable drop after those names. Five of the next six players on the list are players associated with PEDs. It’s not surprising that this group tops others because those who won’t vote for those associated with PEDs have fewer qualified candidates from whom to choose. Those who will have an easier time getting to ten names. To me, those facts speak very, very well of Jones and Rolen voters.
I think you also see some interesting stuff at the bottom of this chart. Andy Pettitte voters could only find nine other qualified names half the time. That’s a shame to me since Pettitte was associated with PEDs. What I mean is that if you vote for Pettitte, you must vote for Bonds and Clemens. Also, Pettitte was clearly a lesser pitcher than Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, and Curt Schilling. So we’re up to six now. Mariano Rivera makes seven. That means half of Andy Pettitte voters disagree with something above, or they thought Pettitte was better than all but two of of Ramirez, Sheffield, Sosa, Edgar, Walker, Rolen, Helton, and Kent. In other words, Pettitte voters struggled to do their jobs well.
The last thing I want to point out is the support Omar Vizquel voters give to other candidates. It’s below the average, which is just about impossible. For whatever reason, I’ve read a lot about the Dunning-Kruger Effect recently, and I think it applies here. Basically, those who have a lot of information doubt and question their information quite a bit. For example (patting myself on the back), I’ve wavered on Manny, Pettitte, Sheffield, Kent, and even Larry Walker in the past. (My Walker wavering was in the long ago past, and I understand my former arguments were poor). Dunning-Kruger goes on to hypothesize that those who know much less are far more assured in their opinions. Those who just know Omar Vizquel was a defensive genius on par with Ozzie Smith or that Jack Morris was the pitcher of the 80s are not influenced by facts to the contrary. (Note: I realize I might be bastardizing Dunning-Kruger to a degree, but I believe I am generally representing it correctly).
I am very happy to see on this chart that Andy Pettitte voters aren’t quite as bad as represented on the full ballot chart. Lots of them support exactly nine candidates. You also see the PED candidates continue to be bunched, the Jones and Rolen voters still at the top, and the Vizquel voters continuing to do a terrible job. Let me explain what Omar’s 60.4% number means. It means two in five of his supporters thought that there were six or fewer deserving candidates on this ballot other than the unanimous Mariano Rivera and their guy, Omar.
Continuing our journey, you see that more than 19 in 20 Rolen and Jones voters thought there were at least seven other worthy candidates. About nine in ten voters for eight other candidates thought there were at least seven worthies other than their guy. Then we see a drop. Fred McGriff voters, in my opinion, were wrong. He got a pop in his final year on the ballot that was inconsistent with his record. It makes some sense that Billy Wagner voters might be in this range. Some simply believe he was one of the very best closers of all-time, that closer is a position, and that there weren’t more than six others who were among the very best of all-time at their positions. I think that’s wrong, but it’s not illogical. I don’t mind that Curt Schilling voters are down here. I think there’s a real argument to be made that Schilling was the single best player on this ballot not associated with PEDs. A smaller Hall, non-PED supporter might stop not too many names after Schilling. Jeff Kent voters are just strange – or at least I can’t quite figure them out. And then we have Omar voters. More than a quarter of them think Omar, the unanimous guy, and five or fewer others are the only ones on this ballot who had careers worthy of enshrinement.
To me, these are bad ballots. I can make an anti-PED case for supporting only nine. It’s not a good case, but I can make it. I can make no such case for eight. And what do you know! Omar is at the top.
This is just the reverse chart of the one above showing support for 10, 9, or 8. Please excuse rounding errors.
Now this is just funny. Nearly one in five Omar voters find their guy, Mariano, and four or fewer others of Hall quality. Check out the Rolen voters. I’d have to call them the best voters of 2019.
If you’re not angry yet, your chances of dying from some stress-related malady are lower than mine.
In a week, we’ll close out this series, concentrating on the players you support if you support a particular candidate.
You know the best thing about Twitter? It’s that it can sometimes be such a cesspool that you forget about how awful sports talk radio is. And the best thing about not living in Boston, at least for me, is that I avoid Boston sports talk radio. As I type this, I’m sitting down to watch the Red Sox home opener. The World Champions are 3-8 and playing like one of the worst teams in baseball.
Just two weeks ago Bostonians believed they’d win 90+ games and have a legitimate shot to repeat as champs. Now, the sky is falling.
I write this post today because the sky isn’t falling. What you believe today should be roughly what you believed two weeks ago. So I’m going to share a fake conversation with a polite and naïve young fan who is trying to learn more about the game. (It’s my way of staying calm as I watch the game and putting off a Derek Jeter post that isn’t coming together as I’d like).
Fan: I can’t believe it! The Red Sox are terrible this year!
Me: Well, they’re probably not terrible. Before they won their final game of the 2018 regular season, they had just finished a string of seven losses in eleven games. And things turned out just fine. Right?
Fan: I suppose, but this just feels different.
Me: It does?
Fan: Yeah, they’re terrible!
Me: Have you kept up with that diary, er, journal?
Fan: Yeah, why?
Me: Go back to last September 29. Tell me what you wrote.
Fan: It says, “The Indians hit two walk-offs in a row, and the Yankees beat us four straight. We have no hope in the playoffs.”
Me: And a month later?
Fan: “Four titles in fifteen years! I knew it all along.” So what?
Me: It’s just that these things happen. Don’t get too up or too down over eleven games. (Editor’s note: twelve).
Fan: But we can get excited about individual players, right? Cody Bellinger already has seven hone runs. In just eleven games!
Me: Sure, you can get excited, I suppose, but not too excited. Did you expect 33-35 home runs from him this year? I suspect you should feel like the over looks good, but you shouldn’t suddenly expect him to hit 70.
Fan: But he’s on pace of over 100!!
Me: Yeah, I love that he’s been hot at the start, and I really love that he’s making a lot more contact than he had in the past. However, you should think about different players who have had amazing 11-game stretches. That happens all the time.
Fan: So are you saying I should still only expect 33 homers?
Me: I don’t want to tell you how many he’s going to hit, at least not a specific number. The homers he’s hit still count. Some quick math might work like this: In a six-month baseball season, a guy who hits 33 homers will hit 5.5 per month. Let’s give him 5.5 for May through September. That’s 27.5. Add half a month for what’s left in April. That’s 2.75. Make it 3 since we’re not half way done. Then add the 7 he’s already hit. That’s 37.25. Call it 38 since I think you’ll like that number better.
Fan: I do.
Me: But be a little wary. Is there something you’ve seen from Bellinger in the season’s first eleven games that convinces you he’s a better player than you thought he was two weeks ago?
Fan: Yeah, his seven homers!
Me: No, that’s just a result. Has his process been different? Did he bulk up or slim down in the off-season? Did he undergo LASIK eye surgery? Did the Dodgers move their right field fence in 50 feet closer to the plate?
Fan: Okay, I think I get it. What about pitchers? Is it the same?
Me: Well, Marco Gonzales isn’t going to win 30 games.
Fan: Yeah, I know that, but what about someone like Chris Sale? His velocity is way down, and he’s been hit really hard so far.
Me: Has he? It seems to me his second start was pretty good, though you’re right that his strikeouts and velocity are both down.
Fan: So you think an 8.00 ERA is good?
Me: That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that when your ERA is made up of one start when you gave up seven runs in three innings, your ERA won’t look good for a while even if you’re pitching really well.
Fan: Yeah, but his velocity is down four miles per hour. That’s a big deal, right?
Me: If his velocity is down all year, yes, it’s likely a very big deal. I wouldn’t expect Sale to be among the league’s five or even ten best pitchers with velocity reduced by that much. But I’m not ready to say Sale’s velocity will be down.
Fan: Why not? If you can’t throw, you can’t throw.
Me: Well, sort of. But maybe Sale is a bit hurt. It’s not like he’s been the picture of health over the course of his career. You weren’t expecting much more than 170 innings this year, were you?
Fan: I guess not.
Me: Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Sale will be totally fine. And I’m not saying he won’t be. All I’m saying is that poor velocity or not, let’s not draw any conclusions about a drubbing and a start with a Game Score of 61, a number that topped ten of his starts from a year ago.
Fan: So how long before we should be concerned?
Me: If he heads to the DL in the next few starts, scratch everything that came before. If he doesn’t, I want 3-4 more starts before I’m really worried. The pessimist in me, however, might start getting antsy after today. (Editor’s note: Sale stunk again in his third start. I’m expecting a forthcoming DL stint).
Fan: Do you think Matt Moore is a lot better?
Fan: Do you think Tim Beckham is a lot better?
Fan: Do you think Matt Shoemaker is a lot better?
Fan: Do you think Domingo Santana is a lot better?
Me: You mean the same guy who hit 30 homers and posted a 126 OPS+ two years ago at age 24? Yeah, he might be really good.
Fan: How can you be sure of all of those things?
Me: I’m not sure at all. It’s just that it’s wiser to trust someone’s entire career rather than its last two weeks, even if those last two weeks were really great.
Fan: Okay, last question for today. I’m watching the Red Sox in their home opener too, and they’ve posted a poll asking if the World Series hangover is a real thing. Is it?
Me: While fans like me and you generally root for laundry (teams, no matter who’s playing for them), players aren’t laundry. They’re real people. You know who I’m sure won’t have a World Series hangover. Dustin Pedroia won’t. Neither will Colton Brewer or Tyler Thornburg.
I kind of expected to offer a bunch more names there, but no. This is generally the same team that won 119 games and the World Series in 2018. With that said, there’s no way in hell this team will experience a World Series hangover. Similarly, you won’t encounter a unicorn. Like unicorns, World Series hangovers don’t exist. It’s a term of magic that people who don’t want to, won’t, or simply can’t understand basic logic rely on to explain things that they can’t.
Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez will likely regress. The Sox will miss Craig Kimbrel as well as playoff Joe Kelly and Nathan Eovaldi. Plus, they weren’t really a 108-win team last season. If they win 15 fewer games, that’s still a pretty impressive campaign. A World Series hangover is what I experienced the morning of last October 29. It’s nto something teams ever experience.
Fan: 44% said it’s real.
Me: Of course they did…
In other news, I feel terribly for Chris Davis. Sure, it’s hard to feel bad for someone making $161 million over the life of his contract, but that’s the fault of the Orioles, not Davis. I want to make a Ryan Howard comparison, which wouldn’t be so far off. But two things make that unfair. In defense of the Orioles, Davis was a little better than Howard. Meaning great offense, on the other hand, they signed Davis in 2016. They should have known better! Over the life of this contract thus far, Davis is hitting .199/.295/.389. They shouldn’t have predicted it would be this bad, but they should have known that a massive swing-and-miss guy with only two good seasons before age 30 wasn’t going to turn it around after age 30.
Still, he doesn’t deserve the hate he’s been getting. And nobody deserves to feel the way he must be feeling, no matter how much money they make.
As you already know if you’ve been around here for a while, I believe a vote for Omar Vizquel for the Hall of Fame is foolish. And yes, I think those who choose to vote for him are foolish as well. Omar’s case is based on narrative, not anything he did on the field. I’m going to go by straight bWAR, since I don’t want my argument diminished by my adjustments that make Vizquel look even worse. The guy had only one season where he played like an All-Star. And he had only one other season worth more than 3.5 WAR. Yet, he had 12 seasons when he was worth 1.5 WAR or less. That’s 12 seasons when he was worth ¾ of a reasonable starter – or worse.
Given that I think Vizquel is the worst player on this ballot aside from Michael Young who received the support of even one voter, I expect that those who supported him will have much worse ballots, on average, than supporters of any other player. Let’s see!
Before we move on, Omar is the last player whose voters we’ll highlight. Next time, we’ll offer some comparisons across players to see what we can glean. Please check out the other posts in this series.
I don’t know why someone would beat any horse, living or dead. In any case, I’ll be brief. Eric and I agree that Chris Speier, Scott Fletcher, and Carlos Guillen had careers equivalent to or better (better – they were a shade better) than Omar Vizquel. Enough said.
Ugh! Vizquel voters did a poor job, as I predicted. At this point, however, I think they were a shade less bad than I expected. Sure, they voted for poor candidates a good deal. They didn’t support Bonds, Clemens, Walker, or Rolen as much as the overall electorate either. However, I must admit that I thought it would be worse.
In the last installment of this series, we’ll get a better sense of how bad these voters were. Next week we’ll compare some numbers from across this series and try to draw conclusions from trends in the voting.
In a perfect world, this post would have come out a week ago, but I had that sweet and clearly very helpful Florida Spring Training post to share. I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath to know what I’m looking forward to in 2019, so without further ado, here it is!
As you are perhaps aware, the folks at Fangraphs have decided to incorporate catcher framing into their WAR numbers. Baseball Prospectus had already been doing this for some time. And while framing was on my schedule to resolve this spring/summer anyway, its inclusion over at Fangraphs has put, perhaps, a bit of pep in my timetable’s step. Catchers are the hardest players on the diamond to understand, and thus, their rankings are the ones in which I have the least confidence. Still, we can only use the information we have at our disposal, so I’m going to analyze the literature as deeply as I’m able and incorporate some level of framing into my catcher rankings this spring or summer. Word is that’s great news for Brian McCann, Russell Martin, and Yadier Molina. As an aside, I must say the Molina information delights me. When narrative and performance align, as they do for, say, Babe Ruth, Bob Feller, and Roy Campanella, our job at the HoME is easy. It’s harder when narrative and performance don’t quite align, as with Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax. And it’s pretty much impossible when narrative and performance have little to do with each other, as for Jack Morris and Omar Vizquel. I thought Molina would might be the next Vizquel. Perhaps with the new framing information offered by Fangraphs, we won’t have to worry about that.
A bit more under-the-radar than the framing update at Fangraphs is the annual WAR update over at Baseball Reference. They’ve made some tweaks to catcher defense prior to 1953, so that means it’s update time at the HoME, both for catchers and pitchers. In short, that means completely reworking, and maybe in a few cases reevaluating, about 200 players. As it takes me about 15 minutes to work through a player, my math says that’s about 50 hours of copying, pasting, simple math, double checking, and triple checking. The framing work is going to be fun, this quite a bit less so.
As a Sabermetrically inclined observer of the game, you might think I don’t care too much for all-time lists. Oh, would you ever be wrong. Looking at these lists brings back the first days of my baseball fandom. I love seeing players rise through the all-time ranks. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of great, old players in the game today, so fun risers will be limited in 2019.
While I love looking at the standard all-time categories, what I care about even more is how my all-time rankings shake out. With the caveat that pitching numbers will change some, there are some really cool things to look forward to this year.
Enjoy 2019, everyone!
Over the years writing posts where I’ve evaluated BBWAA Hall ballots, I’ve read a lot of explanations for players. And while I support Jeff Kent’s Hall candidacy, I don’t think I support his supporters. In his support, they very frequently reference his home run total. Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing so per se, however that seems to be the one argument many of them use. He was an adequate defender, someone who may have been a plus in the field until his Los Angeles years, and he a plus on the bases until those years as well. Strangely, you never hear him called a compiler even though he hit 124 home runs in the decline phase of his career. Hmm, perhaps that’s because people who cite home runs might not see three years with 78 homers and 305 runs batted in as part of someone’s decline.
Kent is our eighth player reviewed thus far in the series. Please check out the others.
Jeff Kent would be on my unlimited ballot. If I were a strategic voter, I think he might even make my strategic ballot. Plus, he’s a member of the HoME, though likely one of the first five or so to be kicked out if the Hall began thinning its ranks. Yet, he rates. Eric and I both rank him as the last second baseman in. I list him 25th all-time, and Eric ranks him 24th. So it’s clear that reasonable people might choose to vote for him, and reasonable people might choose to leave him off.
I don’t know what to make of Jeff Kent voters. On one hand, they really seem to like Larry Walker. On the other, they don’t fill their ballots, don’t vote for Bonds and Clemens, do vote for Vizquel and McGriff, and like the fringiest of candidates a lot more than we’d expect. So maybe I do know what to make of them.
In our penultimate installment in this series, we’ll examine the Omar Vizquel voters a week from today.
So my lovely wife, Debbie, and I took a vacation last week. It was her recommendation that we explore Florida’s west coast, Spring Training games and all. I certainly wasn’t going to decline. And truth be told, she loves going to games, though she’s not so big on watching the actual game. In this post, I expected to offer you some suggestions regarding how you can have more fun should you choose to head to Florida in the next couple of years for the same type of trip. Unfortunately, I don’t have too many suggestions, just experiences. Enjoy?
I bought these tickets before Bryce Harper signed with Philadelphia, and until a couple of days before, I didn’t anticipate the circus atmosphere we would encounter. The negatives on the field included no Harper, no Jose Altuve, and no Alex Bregman. The positives included watching Aaron Nola throw to Carlos Correa and George Springer. We had seats on the berm, which are so much cooler in theory than in practice. For one, it’s a free for all. Get a blanket of any size, and spread out. Now, for those of us who got to the game just before the first pitch, space was quite limited. We eventually spied a spot, climbed over several patrons, and had a seat. Then things got interesting. I’m neither particularly old nor particularly heavy, but my old fat ass didn’t enjoy sitting on a what seemed to be a 75 degree angle. So after a couple of batters, we moved on.
Standing room was packed, sometimes up to three people deep. I don’t know how, but we found ourselves behind only two people right behind home plate. And then they moved! You wouldn’t think standing room would be so exciting, but we felt lucky. We got to see Aaron Nola twirl a couple of innings, looking very much in March form. Still, it was Nola from a great vantage point. I think we got lucky.
The last thing I want to bring up it the high percentage of the attendants who weren’t there in any way to see the game. The berm is just a beach, on grass, on an incredibly uncomfortable angle. Everyone is turned toward the water, er, game, but nobody is paying a lick of attention to it. Then there’s the bar area. It was an absolute mob scene. And there was no way to see the game from there. No sightline, no televisions, nothing. I’ve heard that there are bars outside the stadium where you also can’t see the game but have much cheaper beer and don’t require you to pay $20 at the door at noon.
Overall, it was a very nice day, despite the uncomfortableness of the berm, not seeing three stars, and not being able to sit.
A number of years ago, I started a fairly expensive baseball memorabilia habit. When I sat down to look at what I was spending, I decided I either needed to quit collecting or get a second job. Voila! I decided to take to eBay to sell my baseball card collection, which I no longer care so much about. Now, eBay certainly has its problems, but I’ve enjoyed it and made a few bucks at the same time.
Little did I suspect, my memorabilia collecting habit became a card selling habit. I spend so much time scrolling through eBay to get ideas about how to sell, and I occasionally buy when I see a good enough deal. And I’ve started going to card shows for the first time in decades too. This was one of those shows. Debbie and I spend most of our time at shows flipping through bargain bins, and we always find a little something. If I were to calculate it, I’d say I’m making almost one dollar per hour of work, but it’s fun, and it’s profitable beyond that dollar per hour since I’m seldom buying the memorabilia that caused this new obsession.
Oh, the show. At a flea market of all places, this was a pretty great show. There were a few dealers who had exactly the type of things I understand how to sell, and I walked out with about 160 cards for $19. Coming soon to an eBay store near you, likely to be sold for a profit of $6-8 with about ten hours of total work. I’m a financial genius!
This game, this whole day, was rained out, both literally and figuratively. We drove over eight total hours, which is a tough day as it is, for a lot of nothing. Our morning was set to enjoy a wildlife refuge on Sanibel Island. Well, it was 50-something and rainy, so we skipped that idea. Given the extra time we had before the Sox game was inevitably to be rained out, we went to a casino in an economically depressed neighborhood. It was pretty sad, but we played slot machines for nearly two hours (we play slowly), and we made $7. It’s like eBay! While grabbing the car to pick Debbie up at the front, she was checking things online. Alas, she got the bad news. We drove 400+ miles for nothing. Well, except our $7 in gambling wins. I think eBay is more profitable.
If you love baseball, avoid this museum. Sure, it had some cool, non-baseball stuff on the Korean War, but that’s not why I was there. I scheduled this stop to see what’s purported
to be the world’s largest collection of autographed baseballs, 4,999 based on the count displayed when we were there. It was a tremendous disappointment. There were a bunch of balls autographed by Babe Ruth. There was a stunning Lou Gehrig, an equally stunning Joe Jackson, and tons of inner circle Hall of Famers. My guess is that a bunch of these signatures are inauthentic. Also, about one in ten autographs were so faded that they were unidentifiable. I’m not talking about an incredibly faded John Clarkson; I’m talking about Jack Clark, or Dave Clark, or your letter carrier whose last name is “Clark”. Also, on about one in fifty balls, the label was misspelled. The most egregious error that I noticed was Dave “Wingfield”. There were a bunch of guys outside the Hall of Fame in their group of autographed Hall balls. Mark Koenig and Babe Dahlgren are two who jump to mind. There was a wall of balls sighed by boxers and another signed by Hollywood stars like Barbara Eden. Seriously. My very strong recommendation is that unless you’re a Korean War buff, completely ignore this museum. Spend your $15 on gas driving to a rained out game.
I’m not an Astros fan – going to two of their games was just a coincidence – though I am a huge fan of watching Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer hit. In this game, I got Bregman only. That means in the eight total chances to see the four guys I like, I saw them just three times. Huge disappointment! Of course, I did see Miguel Cabrera smash a double and clout an incredibly impressive home run. Regarding Cabrera, he’s 36 and coming off two straight borderline-useless years, but I continue to have hope. With 35 homers and 324 hits, he reaches 500 and 3,000. And since he has five years left on his contract, he’ll have every chance to reach these marks. I say they both happen in 2020. Of course, I argued a year ago that both would happen in 2019, so…
Regarding the Lakeland experience, I unfortunately recommend you skip it unless you’re a fan of the Tigers. The park is generic, largely devoid of character. There were very few people there between the ages of 16 and 60, which might be a function of a lot of things, though I don’t imagine the demographic composition of the crowd is something MLB would be too happy with. If you’re a fan of the Tigers, I recommend you park across the street from the park rather than on the property. There are lots for $5 rather than the $10 you pay at Publix Field. And given our walk, I can’t imagine it will take you much longer from across the street.
One last thing having almost nothing to do with the game. I don’t understand participation in 50/50 raffles. These are raffles where the winner gets 50% of the pot and the other 50% goes to charity. I can think of three reasons to participate in this drawing. First, there’s the charity. Second, there’s the chance to win. And third, there’s guilt. Based on what I saw, almost all of the participation was based on number three. Or, maybe, kinda being not so sharp in the brain area. If you want to give to charity, you should. However, you should give 100% of what you want to give to charity, not just 50% of it and another 50% to some schlub at a ballgame. I don’t imagine anyone who is seriously charitable gives via 50/50 raffles. About chances of winning, what I saw happen again and again was stunning. One ticket cost $5. For $10, you could get 10 tickets. And for $20, you could get 60 tickets. I saw a couple of people give $5, a ton give $10, and only a couple give $20. Since I don’t imagine I was seeing only first-time 50/50 players, this is a really stupid strategy. If you play twice for $20, you get 20 tickets. Or you could just play once and triple your chances of winning. If you play four times for $20, you get 4 tickets. Or you could give yourself a 15 times greater chance by playing only once. I’m left to believe people play out of guilt or out of not being so smart.
Back in 2003, Dayn Perry of Baseball Prospectus wrote, “Grumps like [Richard] Griffin don’t understand the concept of synergy. A question that’s sometimes posed goes something like this: “Should you run an organization with scouts or statistics?” My answer is the same it would be if someone asked me: “Beer or tacos?” Both, you fool. Why construct an either-or scenario where none need exist?”
I loved this line, and I’ve never forgotten this theory. So today, I will share with you the best of the four tacos we ate and the best of the beers from the ten breweries we visited. First, a caveat. I once worked at a college with an incredible culinary program. Twice a semester, the students would produce what was called a Grand Buffet. The food was outstanding. Otherworldly. My office-mate, Mary, and I would walk together from our offices across the street. We’d return with three plates each and yell to each other from our respective offices. She would name ingredients, spices, and on and on. I would be able to articulate little more than, “This is awesome!”. I know I have no ability to discern between tastes, but I believe I know what’s great. Don’t we all…
The best taco, hands down, goes to Capital Tacos in St. Petersburg. Huge flavor, huge portions! As far as breweries, Debbie and I often order flights so we can try four or five beers without drinking a lot. And we care a lot about atmosphere. Where we live in NJ, there’s a very laid back aspect to breweries. Music I’ve never heard, only in the background. No televisions. Food trucks often outside. An eclectic group of people. On Florida’s west coast, the scene isn’t so different, though the music is less in the background. We loved Green Bench in St. Petersburg as well as 7venth Sun in Tampa. I’m an IPA guy, usually the bigger and bolder, the better. I drank some great stuff on this vacation, but the best beer I had was Swan Brewing’s Straight Outta Lakeland. It’s a straightforward IPA. It’s crisp and simply hopped (don’t ask me to tell you the name of the hops). For me, it’s the perfect IPA – from a brewery that’s been open for less than a year. If you’re in the Lakeland area and like beer, I recommend you check it out.
Also, apparently airports are now dog parks. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing. But it most certainly seems to be a thing. You decide.
My PED position is as basic as one’s position can be. I simply ignore them. However, for guys like Manny and Rafael Palmeiro, guys who failed PED tests in the era when they were illegal in Major League Baseball, I can completely understand using the failed tests as a deciding factor in your vote. Hell, Manny was suspended twice. To me, that suggests he was thumbing his nose at the rule, and, debateably, at the game. I dislike the term “PED cheats” that some use almost to dehumanize those accused of using performance enhancing drugs, whether or not they were banned from the game at the time of their use, but Manny actually did cheat. He presents a tough call even for those of us who have made up our minds on how to handle the issue.
Please check out the other players in this series.
Given my PED position, Manny is an easy vote. Eric sees him as the 9th best left fielder ever, while I rank him “just” 14th. Either way, he’s an easy call, ahead of seven HoME left fielders to my mind. He finished with nearly 70 WAR, 555 homers, a .312/.411/.585 triple slash, and a 154 OPS+. He’s tenth in offensive WAR since 1950 among right-handed hitters, so clearly he’s one of the best righties we’ve ever seen hit.
It is not debatable that Manny Ramirez used PEDs. It is also not debatable that he was inferior to both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens as a player. Yet, two Manny voters chose not to vote for Barry, and three Manny voters chose not to vote for Roger. I suppose it’s a good thing that Manny voters chose Barry and Roger more frequently than any non-Mariano candidate. Still, the twisted logic it takes to support Manny but not Barry or Roger is something I don’t think I even want to try understanding.
It’s going to be a long, long time before Manny Ramirez gets into the Hall of Fame. Maybe an admission of PED guilt from someone like Derek Jeter would change the away voters think. Or maybe not. Bonds and Clemens have three more years. Manny has seven. And then there’s Alex Rodriguez. Maybe support will change enough to get A-Rod in toward the end of his run. If that’s the case, guys like Manny will at least have a shot. Then again, I suspect the Era Committee that will eventually “review” his case will be more staunchly opposed to those who used PEDs than even the BBWAA. As in all things, time will tell.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the Jeff Kent voters.
As I finish up with pitchers today, I want to reiterate that these guys are hard to figure. For most, it’s not if they’ll break down but when. And some of the pitchers in the HoME are simply those who didn’t break down until the last stages of their careers. It’s hard to measure the game’s early days. And it’s hard, at least for me, to understand the value of relievers. Whatever the case, it’s been a lot of fun exploring moundsmen these last three weeks, and I thank you for coming along for the ride.
Miss anything in the first ten parts of this series? Just check out the links right here.
Andy Pettitte* (CHEWS+ 68, MAPES+ 73): Pettitte doesn’t need to do anything to get into the HoME. If Curt Schilling and Derek Jeter get in next year, and if the Era Committee puts someone in as well, it’s going to be hard not to vote for Pettitte. Sure, Vladimir Guerrero could get in the way. Maybe we go with Jim Sundberg or Miguel Tejada or Don Newcombe. I don’t know. I think for Pettitte, it’s just a matter of time.
Deacon Phillippe* (CHEWS+ 293, MAPES+ 224): You might know Phillippe as the guy who beat Cy Young in the first World Series game. Or the guy who also won Game 3 and Game 4 in 1903. Or, sadly, the guy who lost Game 7 and Game 8, thereby giving the Boston Americans the first World Series title. Or maybe you don’t know him at all. Phillippe’s career looks a bit strange to me. He won 20 games in each of his first five seasons, beginning when he was 27. His career started in the 1800s, and you already know how the Pirates used him in the World Series, but he only threw as many as 300 innings once. That’s a bit weird. The question we really need to explore is why he didn’t reach the majors until 27, which is also weird. Unfortunately, even his SABR bio doesn’t shed much light on that. It seems, maybe, that he played for only three years in the minors. BBREF shows the last two, highlighted by winning 22 in his final Western League campaign, but allowing a good number of runs in the process. It’s quite possible that he wasn’t ready before he arrived in Pittsburgh. While he was excellent at the end of his career, even after a broken finger, it was out of the pen, and he didn’t have a ton of value. Weird. There’s nowhere, really, to find extra value for Phillippe. Think of him a bit like Jered Weaver. Maybe Teddy Higuera?
Billy Pierce* (CHEWS+ 85, MAPES+ 107): At different times, Eric and I have both backed Pierce, not really pushing for him, but keeping his name in the conversation. Pierce was an excellent starter for the White Sox for most of his career, before shifting mostly to the pen as he closed things out with the Giants. The truth is that he pitched out of the pen a decent amount during his career. Starting with his first full season mainly in the rotation, he made 6, 4, 9, 1, 7, 10, 7, 2, 3, 3, 1, 1, 11, 7, 25, and 33 appearances in relief. That certainly feels like more than the typical starter. But aside from those relief appearances, Pierce had a fairly typical arc to his career. He’s not so unlike Jerry Koosman or Frank Viola. In order to get him into the HoME, I’m going to have to interpret those relief outings more favorably than I do today.
Johnny Sain (CHEWS+ unranked, MAPES+ 237): Do you know why folks in marketing use jingles? It’s because they work. “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.” It makes some of us categorize a relatively pedestrian pitcher who happened to be better than his teammates with one of the game’s all-time greats. At the very least it keeps his name in our heads. To be honest though, Sain’s second career, as a pitching coach, was probably better than is first. Eric hasn’t even felt compelled to rank him. In fairness to Sain, he did miss three years while serving in the military, and he was quite good when he returned, second in all of baseball to Hal Newhouser from 1946-1948. If we are very generous and give him the average of his 1946-1948 campaigns for 1943-1945, he would pass four HoME pitchers. I must say that I’m shocked. I must also say that adding that much value is likely inappropriate. Doing so disregards injury risk. It disregards wear and tear on his arm. And it assumes a level of excellence that may be inappropriate. Still, it’s something to think about.
Dave Stewart* (CHEWS+ unranked, MAPES+ 336): Of all the dumb baseball arguments I’ve heard over the years, the suggestion that Stewart should win the Cy Young Award in 1990 because he won 20 games for the fourth straight season and never won it in any previous season has to be one of the worst. Stewart was a replacement level pitcher for a long time, totaling just 4.7 WAR on the mound from 1978 through the time the Phillies released him in 1986. The A’s soon picked him up, got him together with Dave Duncan, and suddenly Stewart was pretty good. Let’s not confuse things though. Despite 84 wins in four years, Stewart was merely very good, not great. He threw a ton of innings on behalf of a team with a great offense. That’s how you win that many games. Even at his very best, Stewart was just the ninth best pitcher in the game, trailing Bruce Hurst, Teddy Higuera, and Mark Gubicza, among others. Then at 34, he was done. Let’s say it was Dave Duncan’s magic that turned Stewart into an overnight success. And let’s say the two hooked up earlier. I’m going to add 4.5 WAR seasons going back before 1987 to see where Smoke might have been if he met his pitching guru earlier. If it were two years earlier, I’d rank Stewart #232. If it were two years before that, he’d move to #206. And if he were with Duncan his whole career, save the 1978 cup of coffee, Stewart would be just behind Catfish Hunter and Adam Wainwright in 170th place by MAPES+.
Frank Tanana* (CHEWS+ 79, MAPES+ 93): If you tell someone that a California Angel pitcher won the 1975 AL strikeout title, they’re not likely to get the right answer. It was Tanana, and he was a stud. The talented lefty got to the majors when he was 19, was a star when he was 20, and was great form 21-23. In 1978 he was 24. He hurt his shoulder, I’m guessing in June, and he was never the same. He was talented enough to reinvent himself, have a few more good years, and take home a paycheck until he was 39. In many ways, his was quite a remarkable career. Perhaps no player describes my age better than Frank Tanana. I feel like I know him well, and I feel like he was terrible. Of course, that’s not remotely true. During his 1975-1977 peak, he was the best pitcher in the game by WAR – better than Palmer, Niekro, Seaver, and far better than Ryan. For the five years from 1974-1978, he’s fourth – still ahead of Palmer, Perry, Reuschel, and, of course, Ryan. Without doing anything, Tanana could get into the HoME. I rank him the tiniest sliver ahead of Whitey Ford. For this experiment, if his shoulder just held together for all of 1978, I’d rank him 66th, ahead of a dozen HoME hurlers. It’s that close. Oh, and speaking of jingles, as we were above, Wikipedia tells me that “Tanana and Ryan and two days of cryin’” was a thing. Never heard it.
Jesse Tannehill* (CHEWS+ 180, MAPES+ 105): The third early Pirate pitcher of our countdown, Tannehill’s profile is helped by some impressive offensive output during a few of his best years on the mound. With rounding, he has six 5-win seasons. That’s the same number as Ted Lyons and Jim Bunning, to name two. Like a lot of pitchers below the absolute elite, Tannehill was basically done when he was 31, and he was totally done after that. If Tannehill dropped 2.0 WAR per season after his outstanding 1905 season in Boston, he’d pass two HoMErs. Of course, Eric’s numbers don’t say the same. Not only would he need more value, but he’d need to pass a few players from his era. Tough going.
Dizzy Trout (CHEWS+ 102, MAPES+ 96): For quite a while, Trout was the top “Dizzy” on my pitcher list. Then I rethought the value of Dean’s relief innings. In any case, the Tiger righty isn’t all that far off. Then again, maybe he is. Trout’s best season was 1944, when lots of players were at war. He was also great in 1946 with MLB not yet at full strength again. I’m not saying Trout has no business in the discussion. It’s just that when we begin to adjust his numbers, we would have to first consider adjusting downward.
George Uhle* (CHEWS+ 92, MAPES+ 71): The Bull is very close. But it’s an era thing. We have Lefty Grove, Dazzy Vance, Pete Alexander, Red Faber, Carl Hubbell, Wes Ferrell, Urban Shocker, Ted Lyons, Stan Caveleski, Walter Johnson, and Red Ruffing overlapping with Uhle’s career. To get in, Uhle would need to rank at least ahead of Ruffing, the lowest positioned of those guys on my list. Getting him past Ruffing isn’t so hard. After throwing a league-leading 357.2 innings in 1923, Uhle wasn’t able to stay healthy in either of the next two seasons. He wouldn’t have even needed to repeat 1923 the next year to supplant his competition. By the way, healthy in 1926, Uhle was again great, and he again led the league in innings. And once again, he wasn’t fully healthy the next year. It’s just amazing to me that with example after example after example, some still pine for the good ol’ days when pitchers were abused and then unable to perform.
Mickey Welch (CHEWS+ 156, MAPES+ 94): Welch won 307 games and was elected to the Hall of Fame in by the Veteran’s Committee in 1973. He wasn’t their worst choice, but he wasn’t a good one either. His total Black Ink includes one HR/9 title, one time leading the NL in earned runs, and three times allowing the league’s most walks. Not exactly a superstar. My translations like Welch, giving him two MVP-level seasons, three more at the level of an All-Star, and another trio above 4.0. Of course, during his time, more players, particularly pitchers, produced numbers of 8 WAR or higher. Even so, Welch has a profile that plays at times. He has two issues though. The first is not unlike Uhle – there are too many better contemporaries. Second, he cratered after age 30. Even so, he’s ahead of two HoMErs as it is, and if we just drop him two wins per year after his strong 1890 campaign, he’d jump ahead of four more. But those are my numbers, not Eric’s.
Hoyt Wilhelm* (CHEWS+ 122, MAPES+ 172): There is a near-zero chance Wilhelm gets into the Hall of Miller and Eric if we don’t choose to add a reliever. And there’s a near-100% chance he gets elected if we do. How close are we to adding another? Well, let me play out one way to tell. It may not be the best way, but it is a way. My numbers say we have 66.67 pitchers. The National Association began in 1871, just about 100 years before the advent of the save rule. And the rule, conveniently enough, have been in place for about 50 years. So about 2/3 of our pitchers should have starred before the save rule. The other third, or about 22, should have starred after. In actuality, we have 25 pitchers in the HoME whose careers began near or after the advent of the save rule. Of those, 22.5, or 90%, are starters. Following those numbers, it would seem we have about 9-10 pitchers to add before we might need a reliever. And we have 4-6 to add before we really need to think about it. Obviously, your mileage may vary. Rivera and Eckersley are both over the line for both of us. Gossage is for Eric, and he’s close for me. Wilhelm is another story though. He’s out for Eric and far out for me. Perhaps we should’t think about adding relievers specifically, just pitchers in general. If that’s the case, Wilhelm isn’t very close.
Smoky Joe Wood (CHEWS+ 207, MAPES+ 164): Red Sox fans love this guy, and that’s the reason he makes this list. The truth is that Wood reached 3.0 pitching WAR just three times in his career. And while he did pitch in the non-Joss requisite ten seasons, he only had seven with as many as 23 innings, and only two with 200. Though he was far from unhittable, he did win three games in the Sox 1912 World Series victory, and he was awesome in that regular season. A broken thumb in 1913 and appendicitis in 1914 slowed him a great deal. Oh, and he had shoulder problems. Maybe it was the 366 innings he threw when he was 22? Wood isn’t close.
Wilbur Wood (CHEWS+ 103, MAPES+ 111): This Wood is. And this knuckleballer is. With Wilhelm as his tutor, according to Wood’s SABR biographer, Gregory H. Wolf, he became the second or maybe the third best knuckleballer ever. When Wood joined the White Sox in 1967, Wilhelm, 44, was already there. Wood, on Wilhelm’s advice, began throwing the pitch all the time, and the rest is history. Plugged into the rotation in 1971, Wood registered 11.8 pitching WAR. The next year it was only 10.7. Two more very good, but not amazing, years followed, making Wood easily the game’s best pitcher over those four years. He was so good during those seasons that even when we expand the period to eight years, 1968-1975, Wood is still the game’s fourth best pitcher and best in the American League. Expanded to a decade from 1968-1977, Wood was still the AL’s most valuable pitcher by WAR. A decade of dominance like that will usually put a guy in the Hall or HoME. However, the “trick pitch” knuckler doesn’t get the respect it deserves. And Wood only topped 3.7 WAR on the mound five times. Getting him into the HoME isn’t hard at all. Have Ron LeFlore’s 1975 liner move two inches to the left or right, missing Wood’s knee. Even if his string of dominance stopped, I would expect that his string of goodness would have continued. That’s all it would have taken, just a little more goodness. If we turn Wood’s last three years into 3, 2, and 1 WAR, that gets him past two HoME hurlers. It’s that simple.
Thanks for reading! And thank you so much for participating in this series, everyone. It’s been one of my favorite to write in the HoME’s nearly six years.
To have thought that we might actually be able to learn about the BBWAA by examining their actions was likely a fool’s errand at the start, and, frankly, not so much in this series has been illuminating. That doesn’t mean we should stop though. First, the review is fun, at least for me. Second, this series will culminate in a large-ish chart covering all we’ve looked at. Maybe, just maybe, that will be telling.
Of course, that chart is still a few weeks away, after we review support for Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, Omar Vizquel, and today’s candidate, Todd Helton.
As always, you can check out the first posts in this series right below.
To me anyway, Todd Helton had an interesting career. He played for only one team, finished with the fun 3/4/5 triple slash line, and was the best player in the game from 2000-2004 other than inner circle guys Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. Plus, his season in 2000 is the likes of which we seldom witness, at least from a black ink standpoint. He won the hit title, the RBI title, the total base title, and the triple slash triple crown. He also won a doubles title while making what seemed to be an annual faux run at Earl Webb’s 1931 record. And though he was likely the best player in the NL that year, he finished just 5th in the MVP race.
Eric thinks Helton is the 15th best ever at first base, while I rank him two spots higher. A better proxy for how we see him is that we both rank Helton ahead of Bill Terry, Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire. In other words, he’s an easy call. We confirmed that in February when we were given six spots to add to the Hall of Miller and Eric in 2019. Helton ranked third on both of our lists.
Helton received support from only 58 public voters. A relatively large percentage of his supporters, 62.1% voted for the maximum ten players. Let’s look at the percentage with the maximum support for all players in this series thus far.
We don’t see much here other than Scott Rolen voters know what they’re talking about.
As for other Helton voters, 10.3% voted for nine, 15.5% voted for eight, and the rest voted for seven (1), six (3), and five (2). Perhaps there are two types of Helton voters. The first might be the most informed folks who consider Helton one of the ten best on the ballot. The other might be those who don’t look beyond the .316/.414/.539 triple slash line. I must admit that I don’t know. And anyone who acts like they do should be reminded that we’re talking about just 58 known voters.
We normally start this section at the top of the ballot with Halladay and Martinez, but today we have to start with Larry Walker, right? After all, he and Helton have the same thing working against them, Coors Field. They also have the same thing working for them – they’re both well qualified. Since Walker has been on the ballot longer, I wouldn’t expect that Walker supporters would necessarily support Helton in big numbers, though they did support him 23.5% of the time 16.2% of known ballots. I would, however, expect a huge percentage of Helton supporters to also vote for Walker. Let’s see.
As with most parts of this series, most things concerning the BBWAA, and most candidates who fare poorly in their first ballot but make a second, it’s too early to draw conclusions. A year from now, I may think differently. If Larry Walker somehow bridges the huge gap of 20+ percentage points and gets elected by the BBWAA, that bodes very well for Helton’s eventual election. If he doesn’t, I don’t think that speaks to Helton’s future too much. Fingers crossed for Walker.
Next week, the Manny Ramirez voters enter our crosshairs.