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Miller has written 378 posts for the Hall of Miller and Eric

Pioneer/Executive #30, David Neft

Baseball EncyclopediaWhen we started filling the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric, we cast a wide net. We looked at guys who owned and ran teams, sabermetricians, commissioners, coaches, announcers, and more. Like Babe Ruth and Roger Clemens, it was easy to elect Kennesaw Landis and Marvin Miller. And like Roy White and Pud Galvin, it was hard to elect Bob Howsam and Joe Brown. It’s even harder to elect our 30th member.

Let me share a little of what’s gone on behind the scenes. I fought pretty hard for Pud Galvin as one of our final players. Though Eric didn’t love Galvin, he was less passionate about any one player than I was about the 365-game winner. Thus, Galvin was elected.

From 22-24, the HoME elected J.G. Taylor Spink, Sean Forman, and Walter O’Mally. Those were the last three guys I was totally certain about, and it was around that time that I began lobbying for Vin Scully. I think there’s tremendous merit to enshrining the greatest announcer in the game’s history.

Eric was far less excited about Scully. Though he eventually stipulated that Scully was indeed the announcer we’d be most likely to elect, it’s not like the Dodger great contributed to any wins on the field. Others in the HoME either very clearly did or at least debatably did.

Still, Scully lingered on our list of options as we elected Al Campanis, Sam Breadon, Barney Dreyfus, and Bob Howsam. I’d have given him a vote; Eric wasn’t so sure. Then about a month ago, the same thing happened with Scully as with Galvin. I was somewhat more passionate then Eric was, and we agreed to make Vin Scully our 30th inductee.

Then Rob Neyer wrote about David Neft, and we paused.

We un-scheduled our Scully post, and we talked about the idea we’d dismissed Neft and his work on The Baseball Encyclopedia too early.

Eric told us on Monday that, “As the research community used it, found discrepancies, recommended adding this or that, the book could change and grow. So now could any baseball book that relied on a background database. Which eventually gets you to BBREF. The rapid evolution of baseball research, analytics, and publishing were enabled by Neft’s breakthrough thinking.”

Results 30, David NeftI can’t disagree. And I can’t disagree with Eric’s argument that millions of baseball fans around the country would call Harry Caray, Ernie Harwell, Mell Allen, or Red Barber the greatest ever. Sure, I think they’re wrong. But I acknowledge that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I realize that art is subjective.

So is entrance to the Hall of Miller and Eric, especially at this level. In the end, Eric’s belief that we should elect David Neft was greater than my belief that we should elect Vin Scully. So congratulations to Neft on becoming the 30th and final member of the Hall of Miller and Eric. And thank you for The Baseball Encyclopedia.

Scully fans can possibly take heart though. The Hall will elect another pioneer or executive soon enough. And that means there will be one more spot in the HoME. Maybe it will go to Vin Scully.

Miller

Vin Scully’s Case for the Hall of Miller and Eric

Vin Scully, 2

Vin Scully, a Dodger from 1950-2016, is the best announcer in the history of baseball. Period.

In 1982, he won the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions from a baseball broadcaster. He is a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame. In 1995 he earned a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. He owns a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. MLB Network’s Prime 9 named him the greatest baseball broadcaster ever. He received the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award in 2014, an award to recognize historic accomplishments to the game. He’s only the second non-player to win it after Rachel Robinson. American Sportscasters Online named him the best sportscaster ever.

Scully’s case for enshrinement in the HoME rests on an argument for art over science. And at the HoME, science has won every time. It doesn’t matter how beautiful Fernando’s windup was or how smoothly Maz turned two. What matters is the value they brought to their teams. Even in the Pioneer/Executive wing, we’ve worked to measure the value of owners, general managers, and coaches.

If you didn’t have particular value, you did something to change the game. David Neft, as Eric described on Monday, changed the game with his research leading to the first meaningful baseball encyclopedia.

Vin Scully didn’t change the game. His claim is that he was the personification of the art of baseball. And sometimes art should win.

After all, we love baseball because of the art. Nobody ever goes to a game to see Mike Trout put up WAR. They go to root for their favorite team, to sit out in the sun with family and friends, to have a beer and a dog. We listened to Vin Scully for nearly 2/3 of a century because he told the story of baseball better than anyone ever has. He helped us love the game.

“As long as you live, keep smiling because it brightens everybody’s day.”

“Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost, for support, not illumination.”

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be a bridge to the past and to unite generations. The sport of baseball does that, and I am just a part of it.”

“The roar of the crowd has always been the sweetest music. It’s intoxicating.”

“Losing feels worse than winning feels good.”

“Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. Aren’t we all?”

“To be honest, I’ve never been interested in how many games I’ve done and seen. It doesn’t mean anything to anybody. All I know is I’m eternally grateful for having been allowed to work so many games.”

I grew up with Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola on NBC in the mid to late 1980s. I’m grateful to him for helping make me the fan I am today. I was proud to wish him farewell in October. And I am proud to say Scully gets my vote as the 30th and final member of the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric.

Miller

Maybe the Win Shouldn’t Die

Brian Kenny, Ahead of the CurveFor a number of years MLB Network’s Brian Kenny has been on a campaign to kill the Win. And he’s been joined by pretty much everyone who understands the game. I’m guessing Harold Reynolds is a holdout, and I have to guess because I don’t watch too much of the MLB Network these days. Anyway, it might not surprise you to know that I’ve been with Kenny and others from the start. But I’m beginning to have second thoughts. Let me explain.

We can only judge whether a statistic is good or bad in relation to other stats, right? In fact, we can only judge whether anything – a movie, restaurant, or science fair project – is good or bad when we compare it to others of its ilk.

We’re against the win because pitchers can get them when they pitch awfully, and they can fail to earn them when they twirl gems. But we’re talking about something that happens on the individual game level. Why is it that we make a big deal, or any deal at all, about something that happens in individual games?

Nobody is particularly impressed if a pitcher posts a 1.35 ERA or a hitter drives in three runs in a particular game. We understand that those things happen with great frequency, so they’re generally non-issues. We also don’t freak out if a pitcher gives up three bloop hits and a double off the wall. And it’s not the end of the world if a hitter comes up twice in a game with men on second and third only to be robbed by two great defensive plays by outfielders. Luck and random variation both happen.

Yet, we’re somehow fixated on the Win.

I’m here to tell you that Wins have value as a statistic, at least on a career level. And we shouldn’t kill it if it’s no worse than other mainstream statistics. In this pithy analysis, I’m going to look at all-time leaders in some mainstream statistical categories to see what kind of HoME membership is contained therein.

It’s possible that we can look at the Win a little differently than Kenny does. It’s possible that Wins aren’t so bad a stat relative to other mainstream measures we respect or at least stomach.

Wins

Each of the top 19 guys on the all-time Wins list is in the Hall of Miller and Eric. It’s not until #20 where we reach 307 game winner, Mickey Welch, that we find a hurler not in the HoME. Then things get a little dicey. Bobby Mathews clocks in at #25, Tommy John is #26, and Tony Mullane is tied for #29. Jim Kaat is #31, Burleigh Grimes is tied for #33, Jamie Moyer is #35, Eppa Rixey is #37, and Jim McCormick is #39. Then there’s Gus Weyhing at #40, Jack Morris tied for #43, Al Spalding at #46, and Jack Quinn at #49.

Whoa! Maybe I’m making a mistake. By my count, that’s 13 of the top 50 on the all-time wins chart who aren’t in the HoME. But let’s see how this list compares to others before we, like many, just dismiss the Win.

Strikeouts

Mickey Lolich is #18 on the list. Then there’s Frank Tanana at #21, Jerry Koosman at #29, Javier Vazquez at #30, A.J. Burnett at #31, as well as Jack Morris, Mark Langston, Jim Kaat, Sam McDowell, Andy Pettitte, and Jamie Moyer at #34-39. Bartolo Colon is #44, Charlie Hough is #45, and Dwight Gooden is #50. Let’s not count Pettitte since he has a shot at HoME induction.

So we’re looking at 13 out of 50. Exactly the same as our Wins guys. Maybe we should kill the Strikeout?

Saves

I’m just including this category to be a pain in the ass. Trevor Hoffman, the #2 guy on the list, isn’t in the HoME. Neither are 46 others. The only guys who are in or going are Marino Rivera at #1, Dennis Eckersley at #7, and Rich Gossage at #23. That means 47 of the top 50 are out of the HoME. But we all know Saves are a terrible statistic already, much worse than the Win. Maybe we should try the Goose Egg?

And we’d have to agree if we could keep just one statistic, it would be the Win rather than the Save.

Batting Average

Much of this all-time list is outside the HoME, including #4, Lefty O’Doul. In fact, 21 of the top-50 Batting Average leaders are outside the HoME. However, we really should look at a more recent sample of players to learn if this is a bad statistic. Batting averages were different over 120 years ago, so I’m just going to look at the World Series era.

O’Doul is now #3 on the list. And we’re down to just 13 of 50. Of course, it’s not like 13 is so far 13 on the Wins list. I’m no math expert, but I think 13 is exactly the same.

Home Runs

We see the same problem on the all-time Home Runs list that we see on others. Relatively early on the list there’s a guy who’s not in the HoME. In this case it’s #12, Harmon Killebrew. David Ortiz at #21, sadly, isn’t going either. Same with Fred McGriff at #28, Willie Stargell at #30, Carlos Delgado at #32, Adam Dunn at #35, Jose Canseco at #36, Dave Kingman at #42, Jason Giambi at #43, Paul Konerko at #44, and Juan Gonzalez at #47. Additionally, I think it could be some time before #39, Vladimir Guerrero, gets in. That all depends on what Hall voters do, particularly those on the Era Committees.

All told we have 11 or 12 of 50 not in the HoME. Again, that’s not far from the 13 on the Wins list.

Runs Batted In

It’s not as vociferous a crowd who wants to dump the RBI, but we have to admit that opportunity is the driving force behind driving in runs. And the all-time list suggests to me that teams do a decent job of finding the right guys to give those RBI opportunities. It’s not until #21 where we find David Ortiz, deeper than any list thus far. Tony Perez is #28, Harold Baines is #30, Harmon Killebrew is #36, Fred McGriff is #42, Willie Stargell is #45, and Carlos Delgado is #50. That’s only seven guys in the top 50 who aren’t in the HoME. And the truth is that a few of them would be in if they did anything other than hit well. Hooray for Runs Batted In!

Runs

Johnny Damon clocks in at #25, and he’s never going to be a HoMEr. Lou Brock is #36. And that’s it! The other 48 guys on the list are all in the Hall of Miller and Eric. Forget ribbies, hooray for Runs!

Hits

Lou Brock is #23 on this list, Omar Vizquel is #36, Harold Baines is #39, Johnny Damon is #48, and Vada Pinson is #50. So compared to Hits and Runs, at least by this measure, Wins is a pretty bad statistical measure.

OPS+

Dave Orr is #14, Charlie Keller is tied at #31, Gavvy Cravath is tied at #33, and Charley Jones is tied at #35. Elmer Flick, Benny Kauff, and Ralph Kiner are tied at +37. Sam Thompson is tied at #42, and of the eight guys tied at #49, only one is a HoMEr. Active players on the list include Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Paul Goldschmidt. Most of those guys are fine, but Goldschmidt still has work to do. And Votto is older than some think at 33. Should he fall off the map in the next year or two, he likely won’t make it. That’s a minimum of nine guys. It’s ten if you count two of the tie for #49, and it’s 11 if you count one of Votto and Goldschmidt. I certainly believed OPS+ would be considerably more telling than Wins, but at 11 compared to 13, it isn’t.

ERA+

This list is littered with olde tyme dudes and relief pitchers. There are two dozen who aren’t in and aren’t going.

WAR

If we’re looking as WAR by position players, every single guy is either in the HoME or going. Except maybe Chase Utley. I have him #22, a place where we might or might not support him. I believe Eric likes him more than I do, so he’s going to go.

Pitcher WAR

Well, we have Jim McCormick at #27, Mickey Welch at #44, Tommy John and Dazzy Vance tied at #47, and Bobby Mathews at #49. That’s five guys, more than as on the Runs list and as many as on the Hits list.

Shortcomings and Conclusions

Clearly a shortcoming of this study is that the HoME is a WAR-based institution. We start with a bias toward WAR as a strong statistic. On the other hand, it’s not like the list of pitcher WAR is even as good as the list of Hits or Runs.

My conclusion is this – the Win shouldn’t die. At least not as long as we still use other mediocre measures to help us interpret performance. Omnibus stats like WAR are great, but even WAR needs context. Should we timeline? Should we adjust for shorter schedules? How should we weigh peak and prime versus career?

There’s no easy answer, and that’s why just ignoring a statistic, any statistic, probably isn’t the best idea. Long live the Win! Maybe.

Miller

 

 

Making Better Decisions Than Buck Showalter

Big MacNo one said this would be easy. Today is the day we’re supposed to elect the final member of the Pioneer and Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric. During our research we bandied about a hundred or so names, maybe more. And we were about 48 hours from electing Vin Scully. But then we got to talking about this.

It involves three of my favorite things: baseball statistics, fivethirtyeight.com, and Rob Neyer. It also involves David Neft, the guy responsible for “The Baseball Encyclopedia: The Complete and Official Record of Major League Baseball”.

Eric’s basic argument is this: Henry Chadwick led to J.G. Taylor Spink, who led to David Neft, who led to Bill James, who led to Pete Palmer and John Thorn, who led to Sean Forman. Chadwick, Spink, James, and Forman are already in the HoME. Maybe Neft should be too.

Actually, Eric had a stronger argument, which went something like this: Let’s get it right.

So we’re going to take some time, and we’re going to try to get it right. Do you think it should be Neft or Scully? What about Palmer? Thorn? Someone else? Leave a comment. We’re open-minded.

Oh, and in case you already forgot what the title of this post is about.

Miller

One More Data Point, Babe’s the Best

Steve KerrWith word coming in the in the last week or so that Steve Kerr would miss some time in the NBA playoffs, I got to thinking about how much credit a coach deserves for a ring if he’s not with the team for such a significant portion of the season. Because I don’t know a lot about basketball, that thinking came to a close pretty quickly. Taking its place is the idea about crediting baseball players for rings. I wanted to know not just who won rings though. BBREF does that quite well on their own. And when looking at that list, we see Frankie Crosetti with eight rings, Johnny Murphy with seven, Joe Collins with six, Luis Sojo with five, and other fun things like that.

What I wanted to know, however, is about the real contributors to titles. There are zillions of ways to do such a thing, I imagine, and I don’t want to suggest that my plan is the best way. Maybe it’s not even a good way. But it’s a way. And it’s kind of fun. I looked at every 5-WAR player (star) and every 8-WAR player (superstar) on every World Series winner. If you were a star for a championship team, I assigned you with five points. If you were a superstar, you got eight. Without further ado, here are the results.

Stars (5 points)

Shane MackThere have been 148 times in which a player put up a 5-WAR season for a team that won the World Series but never did it again. Shane Mack did it, but Kirby Puckett never did. Bob Gibson was incredible in the World Series twice, but he was only a star during the regular season one of those times. David Ortiz is on this list just once, the same number of times as Aubrey Huff, Tiny Bonham, Doc White, and Darin Erstad. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo did so last year and hope to repeat this season.

Superstars (8 points)

There are 26 players who had exactly one superstar season that led to a World Series victory. They include some of the greatest ever: Cy Young, George Brett, Randy Johnson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, and Christy Mathewson. They also include such forgotten guys as Bill James (not that one, but I wish), Dick Rudolph, and Jim Bagby.

Double Stars (10 points)

Graig Nettles, 1981There were 22 players who starred on two World Series winners. Guys who struck me as somewhat surprising include Devon White and Tony Lazzeri. Guys who didn’t have great careers but did have some star seasons include Phil Rizzuto, Catfish Hunter, and Lou Brock. We think of that trio as this great because they were great in October. Also on the list are hidden greats like Sal Bando and Graig Nettles. Buster Posey is here too, hoping to move to elite territory in the coming years.

Superstar/Star (13 points)

There are just 23 players ever at this level or higher. The complete list of 13 pointers is Mordecai Brown, Lefty Grove, Mort Cooper, Curt Schilling, and Albert Pujols.

Triple Star (15 points)

Here we have a trio of Yankees in Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, and Bernie Williams. Bernie provides a nice reminder here of how great he was. I would have guessed we’d have seen more points out of Berra. And though Reggie was two-time champ as a Yankee, he scored all of his points with the A’s. The last guy on this list is Home Run Baker, who produced three strong campaigns in 1910, 1911, and 1913 with Philadelphia. So I guess we have two Yankees and two A’s.

Double Stud (16 points)

Here we’re reminded about why many of still remember Smoky Joe Wood in spite of only 117 career wins and 1434.1 career innings. We also see Sandy Koufax on this list, as well as Joe Morgan from 1975 and 1976.

Stud/Double Star (18 points)

Joe Morgan, 1976This is the land of Derek Jeter. The Captain was very impressive in 1998 and again in 2009, and it was his career year of 1999 that ranks him so high on this list. As a frequent Jeter basher, I would have liked for a lesser result. Alas, he’s deserving.

The Top Ten Quad Star (20 points)

Joe Gordon reaches this level due excellence with the Yankees in 1939, 1941, and 1943, as well as brilliance with the 1948 Indians. Though Gordon did a ton to get his teams to October, only once in his four appearances did he hit over .235. To his credit though, he did hit .500 in 1941.

If the standard were 5.2-WAR, Bill Dickey would only make the list once. But while Yogi might have the most rings, it was Dickey’s run with the 1936-1939 Yankee dynasty that ranks him as the best catcher among this group.

Tris Speaker, #7 (21 points, tie)

Speaker only made it to three World Series, two with the Red Sox and one with the Indians. He won all three, posting a .306/.398/.458 line in 83 trips to the plate. He had the best year of his career for the 1912 Sox, posting 10.1 WAR. He dropped back a bit in 1915 with only 7.7 WAR. And then as an Indian in 1920 he managed 8.5 WAR.

Stan Musial, #7 (21 points, tie)

Like Speaker, Musial won three World Series. He was a star in 1942 and a superstar in both 1944 and 1946. His performances for the Cards were quite pedestrian, slashing .256/.347/.395 with just one home run in 99 plate appearances. Still, without Stan the Man’s greatness, the Cardinals wouldn’t have had the chance to earn their rings.

Red RuffingRed Ruffing, #6 (25 points)

Ruffing has six rings in all. Like Bill Dickey, he was a star from 1936-1939, though not necessarily because of his work on the mound. In 1936 he offered just 4.0 pitching WAR, and in 1939 it was 4.4. But his excellent bat pulled him above 5.0 each year. When we add Ruffing’s career-best mound work in 1932, we have our first guy on the list to have five star seasons when his team won.

Eddie Collins, #5 (26 points)

Collins is without a doubt one of the most underrated superstars in the game’s history. And he’s the top non-Yankee on this list. He won four rings, the first three of which were with the Philadelphia A’s in 1910, 1911, and 1913. His final title came as a part of the 1917 White Sox. The star second sacker scored 10.5 WAR in 1910, he dropped down to 6.5 in 1911, he scored eight more points with 9.0 WAR in 1913, and he finished off his scoring with 5.0 WAR in 1917. His overall performance in the World Series was excellent, as seen by his .328/.381/.414 career line in 147 plate appearances. In three of his wins he hit over .400, and in two he slugged over .600.

Joe DiMaggio, #3 (34 points, tie)

If you’ve read this far, there no doubt you already know the top four guys on this list. DiMaggio is the third Yankee from 1936-1939 to make it; five points in 1936 and 1938 and eight points in the other two years. There’s another eight points in 1941, and at age-35 he added another five points in 1950. But DiMaggio wasn’t an amazing World Series performer, posting only a .271/.338/.422 line over 220 plate appearances.

Lou Gehrig, #3 (34 points, tie)

We start with 11.8 WAR in 1927, move to 9.4 in 1928, follow that up with 7.9 in 1932, 9.1 in 1936, and 7.7 in 1937. So we’re looking at just 0.4 WAR over two years away from 40 points and second place on this list. His .361/.483/.731 line in 150 trips is even better than his career .340/.447/.632 line.

Mickey MantleMickey Mantle, #2 (39 points)

It’s Mantle, not Gehrig, who ranks second. As a kid in 1952 and 1953, Mantle put up 6.5 and 5.3 WAR. By 1956, Mantle was a monster, posting 11.2 WAR. In 1958 he put up 8.7, and he killed it to the tune of 10.5 in 1961. By 1962, he was on the decline, putting up 5.9 WAR in his last excellent season. You might know that Mantle is the all-time leader in World Series home runs, runs batted in, runs, walks, and total bases.

Babe Ruth, #1 (45 points)

There’s no need to detail it all. This is just another data point to show that Ruth is the best player ever. What’s pretty surprising to me is that of his seven rings, only four are with the Yankees. His three rings in Boston put him behind only Harry Hooper and Heinie Wagner as Red Sox with four.

Conclusions

I don’t think that this “study” is very revealing, but it does say something. It points to the greatness of Eddie Collins and Joe Gordon, shows us that pitchers’ bats matter with the inclusion of Red Ruffing, and reminds us that Reggie Jackson was really an Athletic, not a Yankee. Oh, and Babe Ruth is the best player ever.

Miller

Shoeless Joe Jackson, What If?

Joe Jackson, 1916A few weeks ago I looked at what might have happened had Roberto Clemente not died on New Year’s Eve, 1972. Today, I want to image what could have happened to the career of Shoeless Joe Jackson had the Black Sox scandal of 1919 never happened. In his final campaign of 1920, Jackson led the AL in triples, posted a 1.033 OPS, a 172 OPS+, and totaled 7.6 WAR, tied for the third highest total of his career. Clearly the guy was not done.

The Methodology

As with Clemente, the methodology I’m using today started with players with a similar PA and OPS+ profile to Jackson through their age-32 seasons. After that, I added players with a similar OPS+ and WAR profile to Jackson. I wanted a variety of players, and I wanted to get up to 20 comparable guys. Of course, all of this is made possible by the genius of the BBREF Play Index. Then I looked at what those players did from their age-33 seasons through the end of their careers. Next, I looked at the average of those comparable players. And finally, I added those numbers to Jackson’s career totals to try to determine where he might have finished up had he retired when he chose.

The Comps

Again, I wanted a deeper list of comps for Jackson than I had for Clemente. In the PA/OPS+ group, I had to open up to 1100 plate appearances and 15 OPS+ points. In the OPS+/WAR group of comps, it was 22 OPS+ points and 13 WAR. Yeah, there weren’t many players that comparable to Shoeless Joe through age 32.

Here’s the list:

Dick Allen       Sam Crawford        Reggie Jackson     Manny Ramirez
Jeff Bagwell     Joe DiMaggio        Ralph Kiner        Mike Schmidt
Dan Brouthers    Hank Greenberg      Nap Lajoie         Frank Thomas
Pete Browning    Vladimir Guerrero   Willie McCovey     Jim Thome
Roger Connor     Harry Heilmann      Mike Piazza        Honus Wagner

The Averages

Some of the Shoeless comps were greats with a ton of time left like Wagner, Reggie, and Thome. Others were done or close like Kiner, Browning, and Allen. On average, we’re looking at 2803 more trips to the plate, 377 runs, 695 hits, 430 batted in, a 125 OPS+, and 17.8 WAR.

Shoeless Joe

           R     H     RBI   OPS+   WAR
=======================================
Actual     873  1772   792   170   62.3 
What If   1250  2467  1222   155   80.1

On lots of levels, this chart is less exciting than the Clemente work of earlier this month. That’s okay. Jackson would move from a tie for 479th to 150th in runs. He’d move from 406th to a tie for 108th in hits. His RBI placing would move from a tie for 492nd as I type this to 144th. His OPS+ would drop from 9th to a tie for 24th. But the company would still be excellent – Hank Aaron, Miguel Cabrera, Joe DiMaggio, and Mel Ott. And the WAR among position players would climb from 108th to 38th.

The Real Comps

If we just look at guys from around Jackson’s era, sort of – Brouthers, Browning, Connor, Crawford, Heilmann, Lajoie, and Wagner – we get some better results. And that’s even still including Browning, he of only ten remaining plate appearances.

           R     H     RBI   OPS+   WAR
=======================================
Actual     873  1772   792   170   62.3 
What If   1291  2604  1229   157   88.3

The career run total would be up to a tie for 131st. The hit total would move up to 81st. The RBI total would move just to 143rd. The OPS+ career mark would be tied for 18th with Tris Speaker. And the career WAR mark among position players would be up to 32nd, just a shade behind George Brett.

Clearly Joe Jackson is an all-time great. And clearly he’d be in the Hall of Fame were it not for his lifetime ban. We certainly can’t know how great he would have been had he not been banned, but maybe today’s little exercise gives us an idea.

Miller

Pioneer/Executive #29, Joe Brown

Pirates, 1972I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t familiar with Joe Brown, the guy who replaced Branch Rickey in Rickey’s last GM position in Pittsburgh in 1955. I don’t believe I had heard of him either before we began this process. But Joe Brown was indeed a great general manager.

He led the Pirates for 21 years, from 1955 through the 1976 season and was the architect of the Pittsburgh dynasty that went to the playoffs five times in six years from 1970-1975. He won the World Series in 1960 and 1971, plus he had a lot of influence on the 1979 winners.

Yes, he arrived with Roberto Clemente, but much of the rest of the 1960 champs were acquired under his watch.

Results 29, Joe BrownHe signed some great amateur free agents like Willie Stargell (57.5 WAR for the Pirates), John Candelaria (35.2), Dave Parker (34.7), Manny Sanguillen (28.2), Al Oliver (27.1), Richie Hebner (22.5), Tony Pena (22.3), Bob Veale (21.2), Kent Tekulve (19.6), Richie Zisk (15.7), Doc Ellis (12.8), and Dave Cash (10.2). He traded for 1960 parts Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix, and Don Hoak. He signed 1971 star Bob Robertson and drafted 1971 closer Dave Giusti. And for the 1979 winners, he drafted Don Robinson and traded for Bill Robinson. He hired Danny Murtaugh four times, but he didn’t do a great job overall hiring managers.

Oh, and one more thing. When his successor Pete Peterson was fired early in the 1985 season, he was brought on as the interim GM and oversaw the 1985 amateur draft. That’s when the Pirates signed Barry Bonds (50.1 WAR in Pittsburgh).

Joe Brown is now #29 out of 30 in our Pioneer/Executive wing. Two weeks from now, we’re going to finish things off, at least until the Hall elects another.

Miller

Dale Murphy, Black Sox, PEDs, and Character

Not long ago I wrote a post about Roberto Clemente and what may have been had he not died in the plane crash. This sparked a conversation about great players who were even better people. Lou Gehrig’s name was mentioned. Dale Murphy’s too. Let me add Jackie Robinson’s. There are others, for sure, but the mention of Dale Murphy got me thinking about character and the Hall. I know I’ve written about this in other places, but it’s probably worth mentioning again how Eric and I have made decisions about character and up/down votes.

Dale Murphy and Character

Dale Murphy, 1979Since his playing career ended, Murphy has worked to help kids, curb steroid use, support his church, and Wikipedia adds the following about him, “In 2008, he was appointed to the National Advisory Board for the national children’s charity Operation Kids. Murphy serves as a National Advisor to ASCEND: A Humanitarian Alliance.[21] Murphy is a long time supporter of Operation Smile and also currently serves on the organization’s Board of Governors.”

C’mon, he’s a great guy.

He’s also, for my money, about the 38th best center fielder ever. He tops Hall of Famers Earl Averill, Edd Roush, Earle Combs, Hack Wilson, and Lloyd Waner. But he’s behind some I think about just about no-brainers who aren’t in, guys like Paul Hines, Kenny Lofton, and Jimmy Wynn. Overall, his profile looks a lot like that of Torii Hunter or Mike Cameron.

So how much should Dale Murphy’s character count? For me, I don’t think it can. The real reason is that I can’t possibly quantify what character means to a team in wins or WAR or anything else. But let’s pretend I could. Let’s just say Murphy’s presence was worth exactly 1 WAR every year he played. That would move him from 38th at the position all the way up to 19th. He’d be within an eyelash of HoMEr, Willie Davis. And if we actually thought Murphy was worth a win every year, we’d very much consider him for HoME inclusion.

Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, and Character

This is stickier. No I don’t think Jackson and Rose should be clumped together, but many do. So I will here.

Joe JacksonMy position on Jackson is simple. Even though I think he agreed to cheat, I don’t believe he actually cheated. Even with the lifetime ban before he could play his age-33 season, he’s 11th on my career left field list. To me, he’s an easy call.

As for Rose, I wouldn’t give him a Hall vote because he broke the one baseball law that cannot be broken. And he did it knowingly, even if it was because of a disease. But as a player, he reaches my mark. I don’t pay attention to his post-playing career as a HoME voter. And for a statistical Hall like the Hall of Miller and Eric, I don’t even hold betting while he played against him. It’s all about the numbers, and Rose ranks 10th at first base. He’s an easy call regardless of his gambling indiscretions.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Character

If I had a Hall vote, I’d give it to them. And they’re both already in the HoME. They were fully formed Hall of Famers before anyone speculates they used PEDs. That’s good enough for me. I don’t even need to think about a character issue since such issues, if they even matter, came after each accumulated enough value to get in. Bonds is the best left fielder ever, while Clemens is the third best pitcher by my numbers.

Barry Bonds, 2007To keep Bonds and Clemens off of your ballot, you have to believe at least two things. First, you have to believe that integrity, sportsmanship, and character somehow are more important to your voting decision than the player’s record, playing ability, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played. That’s stuff is straight from BBWAA Hall rule #5 that’s so foolishly mentioned by moralizing writers. Second, you have to believe that in their pre-PED years, they hadn’t yet reached Hall level. Clearly, they had. I suppose you could also believe that if a player fails on any of those levels, he cannot be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Character

Sammy Sosa, 1990This is far more difficult territory. All three of these guys are in the HoME. None are in the Hall. And all are borderline cases by their numbers. I have Palmeiro 17th at first base. That’s not borderline, but a reasonable person could point to the lack of peak in his case. McGwire is 26th at first base. He’s my lowest ranked guy who’s in. And Sammy Sosa is 22nd in right field, perhaps falling behind Ichiro this season.

Reasonable people could keep any of them out based on differences in the way we calculate greatness. And folks who try to measure the value of steroids could bump them below my in/out line without too much wiggling. Of course, to do so you’d have to believe that PED use has enough impact on character to matter.

Or you could ignore the character issue altogether and believe that PED use has enough impact on numbers. That’s not unreasonable.

Manny Ramirez and Character

Yeah, he’s a character.

Eddie Cicotte and CharacterEddie Cicotte, 1916

Eric and I both rank the Black Sox star starter inside HoME-level, but we voted to write him an obituary as soon as he was eligible. It can certainly be said that we made a character call on him. Without spending the time to retell the story here, we believe that he helped to throw the 1919 World Series. Doing so could have destroyed the game of baseball. Yes, we drew a line. My decision, I must admit, was far more about the potential harm he could have done to the game than it was about throwing the opening game of the World Series.

My Views on Character

Yes, I voted Cicotte down because of the damage his actions could have done to the game we all love. Maybe I’m just using that as a rationalization because I don’t want to judge others, and I think I can justify voting him down for a reason other than his character. But the truth is that I just don’t think I can make calls about the character of others. Who am I? I consider myself honorable and ethical, but I haven’t walked a mile in the shoes of Pete Rose or Barry Bonds or Eddie Cicotte.

Recently there was a controversy at my college when the Twitter account of a member of the Board of Trustees was found to have what some would call hateful thoughts in the form of tweets and likes on it. The Trustee said his account was hacked. About six months later, the prosecutor’s office in my county said there was no evidence of hacking. The Trustee finally did resign. Anyway, in the six months after this was discovered, many faculty members, such as myself, and many students spoke in public out against this person’s comments. But not one single administrator did. Not one. Not in six months.

If you think what the Trustee did was reprehensible, perhaps you think that administrators not speaking up was reprehensible too. I don’t. Not at all. Students have the protection of being students. Faculty have the protection of tenure. Administrators have no protection. They can be fired pretty much at any time.

Would you have the courage to speak up if you could lose your job at any time? What is more ethical, to speak your truth, or to make sure you can pay the mortgage and put food on your family’s table?

If I were a major league baseball player, I suspect I would have used PEDs. If I were a manager, I don’t think I would have bet on baseball games, but I’m not addicted to gambling either. What if I were? I don’t know what I would or would not have done. And as for throwing the World Series, well, I certainly wouldn’t if I were in the bigs today. But 100 years ago? When I didn’t suspect I’d get caught, when I thought I’d just fade away if I did, when I thought I was being cheated by my boss, when I had no union protection? I’d like to think I know what I’d do, but I don’t.

There are so many contributing factors to the decisions we make. I don’t blame my friends in administration at my college for not standing up against something they believed was wrong. And I don’t blame baseball players for not making the choices many of us would suggest they make. I don’t blame them because I don’t know what I’d do, or because I think I’d do exactly what they did.

In baseball, we like to make statistics context neutral. That’s a good idea. Too bad we can’t do the same thing with character.

Miller

Pioneer/Executive #28, Bob Howsam

big-red-machineSometimes you just happen into greatness. Well, maybe not. But I’d bet that many of us, if we’re being perfectly honest, can attribute some (many?) of our successes in life to one decision that could have gone either way, or one lucky break not necessarily achieved through any of your own doing.

Okay, maybe you can’t, but I certainly can.

So can Bob Howsam. Howsam’s GM career got off to a great start when he took over the St. Louis Cardinals on August 17, 1964. The Cards stood in fifth place, nine games back of the 71-45 Phillies. Of course, Philadelphia went 21-25 the rest of the way, while St. Louis closed at 30-14 to win the NL pennant. Eleven days later, they were World Series champs, having beaten the Yankees four games to three.

Howsam clearly got lucky. The champs were Bing Devine’s team. He’s the one who pulled off the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio trade. He’s the GM who deserves credit for this title. But Howsam gets it, at least a large part of it. Of course, his next two years in St. Louis, his teams played barely above .500 ball, and he moved on.

Obviously, Bob Howsam isn’t being inducted into the HoME today because of his fortunate Cardinal title. He’s being inducted because he was the architect behind the Big Red Machine. Howsam took the GM job in 1967, and in 1973 he was named President of the club. Though he only lasted until 1977 as GM and 1978 as President, there were some remarkable achievements during that time.

results-28-bob-howsamHis teams were excellent overall, performing at a .559 clip, and he might have even gotten more out of the massively talented teams than he should have expected. From 1970-1981, his teams finished first seven times and second three others, winning the World Series in both 1975 and 1976. He traded for Joe Morgan, George Foster, Tom Seaver, Fred Norman, and Jack Billingham. He drafted Ken Griffey and Dan Dreissen. And he was smart enough to give Sparky Anderson his first big league managerial gig.

Howsam is our shortest-term GM elected to the HoME. But he’s in because he was both a bit lucky (St. Louis) and clearly great (Cincinnati). We now have 28 of 30 in the Pioneer/.Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric. Stay tuned for our next to last entrant in two weeks.

Miller

Roberto Clemente, What If?

roberto-clemente-1955As most of you know, Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash on October 3, 1972 at the age of 38 when the aircraft he was on taking supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims crashed. Clemente was a great baseball player, no doubt, and he was a greater person. So please excuse my insensitivity when I make this post only about baseball – only about what might have been in Clemente’s career if that tragic plane crash never happened.

The Methodology

The methodology I’m using today to figure this out is similar to what Eric and I did at the start of the process to try to evaluate the quality of coaches. First I looked at players with a similar PA and OPS profile to Clemente through their age-37 seasons. Then I looked at what those players – and there weren’t too many – did from their age-38 seasons through the end of their careers. Next, I looked at the average of those comparable players. And finally, I added those numbers to Clemente’s career totals to try to determine where he might have finished up had he retired when he chose.

The Comps

When you’re an all-time great like Clemente, there aren’t too many comparable players. I’d have preferred those within 500 plate appearances and 5 OPS+ points. Instead, I opened it up to 600 PAs and seven OPS points. Yes, I could have opened it up more to increase the list of comparables, but doing to was offering comps at a lower rate than I thought the widening of standards justified.

So, the list of comparables is Rod Carew, Andre Dawson, Dwight Evans, Al Kaline, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub, and Billy Williams.

The Averages

Overall, some comps were just about done. For example, Billy Williams played just 120 more games with 36 runs, 11 homers, 41 batted in, and a .211/.320/.339 line the rest of the way. On the other hand, Paul Molitor scored 300, homered 38 times, drove in 331, and finished with a .302/.359/.430 line in his age-38 season until retirement.

On average, it was 123 runs, 22 homers, 133 batted in, and a .262/.344/.387 line.

Clemente

           R     H    HR   RBI   BA   OBP  SLG  WAR
====================================================
Actual    1416  3000  240  1305 .317 .359 .475  94.5
What If   1539  3260  262  1438 .311 .357 .470  96.8

As we can see from the above chart, Clemente would move up some career lists. The one I care most about is my MAPES list. Right now, I rank Clemente #24 overall among position players and #5 overall among right fielders. Unfortunately for Clemente, the two guys in front of him on my all-time list are both right fielders, Frank Robinson and Mel Ott. And while he closes the gap on both, he can’t quite catch either.

On the all-time WAR list among position players, he goes from #26 to #22. In hits, he moves from #30 to #13. In runs, he goes from #90 to #60. And he moves from #121 in doubles to #75.

Roberto Clemente is an all-time great, one of baseball’s best defenders ever. And he really only lost a couple of years to his career through his charity and warmth of heart. Because Clemente the person was who he was, I don’t suppose we’d think of Clemente the player any differently with a couple of additional WAR, but this little experiment suggests that he would move up the charts some, especially in career hits. Thank you, Roberto.

Miller

Institutional History

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