So you’ve probably heard by now that Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer. That’s right, the guy who’s 139th in career pitching WAR is among about 70 pitchers in the Hall. The reason? Aside from maybe one single game where he was simply awesome, he’s a Hall of Famer because, to many, he’s considered the pitcher of the 1980s.
For some time many of us have argued that Morris isn’t the pitcher of the 1980s, though he did win the most games in that decade. What I’d like to do in this series of posts is to try to systematically (kind of) determine who the pitcher of each decade is.
I’m trying to identify the best pitcher of a decade rather than just the best in the decade. That’s a small but significant difference. The best pitcher in a decade would only focus on those years; for Jack Morris we’re talking about 1980-1989. But when we look at something in such a manner, we’re using sort of strange start and end points. There’s just no reason 1980-1989 is any more significant a decade than 1977-1986, for example.
With that conundrum in mind, I reviewed Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein’s book, Baseball Dynasties, where they tried to determine the best team of all time. They didn’t just look at a given year. They also considered surrounding years. I realized I should do the same, though at somewhat reduced strength. That adjustment should cover for the fact that there’s nothing special about start and end points of xxx0 and xxx9.
Also, given that we’re looking at the best pitcher of a particular decade rather than just the best pitcher for those ten particular seasons, I’m including a small career measure as well. So here’s my process.
Step 1: Do a BBREF search for the most innings pitched in a given decade. Get 40-60 pitchers or so for each decade. I want to err on the side of reviewing too many guys. After all, if I look at the top-40+ in innings for a decade, I can be pretty confident I’m discovering the best five or ten.
Step 2: Since I’m a bWAR-based thinker, I use my adjusted WAR for each of the pitchers in Step 1 for each year in the decade. Then, sort of based on the theories from Neyer and Epstein, I add the year before and after the decade (say 1979 and 1991) at 90%. Then I add then next year in both directions (1978 and 1992) at 70%. And finally, I add the next year in both directions (1977 and 1993) at 50%.
Step 3: If we were looking only for the best pitcher in a particular decade, we could be done now. However, I want to determine the best pitcher of a decade. Thus, there has to be a career factor that helps to articulate “best”. The whole story isn’t told by the false-construct start and end points of a decade. So careers will be added to the calculation at 10% of value. If 10% proves to be too high, I’ll adjust.
Step 4: I will rethink things, subjectively, based on post-season performance and, perhaps, other things that seem out of place.
The National Association, which many consider the first “major” league, got started in 1871. Thus, I couldn’t count 1870 or a percentage of the three years before. This decade saw a lot of uncertainty, so while I like my WAR adjustments, I admit that the error bar for the 1870s is wider than for that of any time in our game’s history. Further, though six pitchers reached 2000 innings in the decade, there were only six others who reached even 700. Perhaps for this decade the 10% career adjustment overestimates where players should rank. Without an adjustment, Pud Galvin ranked ninth on my list. He drops off since he really only played one year in the decade. And Jim McCormick finished fifth by the numbers. He’ll drop a few slots as well.
With no further ado, let’s look at the ten best pitchers of the 1870s.
#10 George Bradley: Aside from an insane 1876 season when he won 45 games while leading the NL in ERA and ERA+, Bradley was a below average pitcher in the decade. If you’re looking for a bit of trivia, on July 15, 1876, it was Bradley who threw the NL’s first ever no-hitter against the Hartford Dark Blues. Bradley isn’t even in my database. I’m just guesstimating his value, which clocks in at about 27% of our decade’s leader.
#9 George Zettlein: Charmer, as he was known, is in my database of adjusted seasonal and career WAR, as is everyone else on this list. Zettlein’s career lasted for the 1871-1875 span of the National Association and then a year in the National League. In six years, he switched teams six times, and he may have been the best pitcher in the first year of the NA, leading the circuit in ERA, ERA+, and pitching WAR. That’s a nice distinction, though his value for the decade is only about 40% of our 1870s leader.
#8 Dick McBride: McBride’s career mirrored Zettlein’s – all five seasons in the NA, the first season in the NL, and that’s it. He was a shade better though – 48% of our leader. Unlike Zettlein, his NA career was quite stable, playing for nobody other than the Philadelphia Athletics.
#7 Jim McCormick: The righty from Glasgow was truly an excellent player, twice leading his league in ERA+ and three times winning his circuit’s pitching WAR title. McCormick drops from where the formula puts him since his only work in the 1870s was a partial season in 1878 and a 40 loss campaign for the Cleveland Blues in 1879.
#6 Monte Ward: Strictly by my formula, our only HoMEr on the list finished third in the decade. However, much of the value of this “pitcher” came at the plate. In fact, pitcher was only his third most common position during his impressive career. As far as his mound work, we’re looking at just two seasons in the decade with the Providence Grays. Granted, he did win 47 games in 1879, but there were clearly more important 1870s pitchers.
#5 Candy Cummings: Did Cummings invent the curveball? I don’t know. The truth, perhaps, is lost to history. What’s not lost is that Cummings is almost certainly in the Hall because it is believed he invented the pitch. His Hall plaque says as much. He was the most prolific hurler in the 1872 NA, though not really the most effective, and he clocks in at 55% of our winner’s total “value”. One thing I’m pretty certain of is that he either invented the curve, or he has absolutely no business in the Hall.
#4 Jim Devlin: To get him to this level, which is a shade better than Cummings at 57%, we’re looking at just three seasons. He was particularly good in the first two of the NL’s existence, leading the league in games, innings, and losses both years. He was also the most valuable by WAR in both. His career ended abruptly after the 1877 season when he and three other players were among the first group banned from the sport for throwing games. Of course, even if he weren’t banned, he’d have been done soon. He died six years later. A combination of consumption and alcoholism will do that to a guy.
#3 Bobby Mathews: A winner of 297 games and not in the Hall of Fame. Even as I write that, I’m surprised he’s not in the Hall. Of course, he shouldn’t be. His wins are a product of his time, as is his ability to reach such a height on this list while clocking in at just 69% of our leader’s total. While he won 29+ six times, only once did he top 30 wins, posting 42 for the New York Mutuals of the 1874 NA. Mathews was possibly the most durable pitcher of his era. Of those who appeared in the NA in 1871, only Mathews, Cherokee Fisher, and Al Spalding lasted until 1878. Kind of amazingly, Mathews made it nine years after that. Whenever I read posts from the SABR Bio Project, which I highly recommend, I’m reminded of what difficult lives these men led, and how different times are now. It seems that Mathews’ syphilis led to mental decline during and after his playing days.
#2 Tommy Bond: Continuing with detail from the SABR Bio Project, Bonds’ entry reminds us that our decade was a time when batters could request high or low pitches from a hurler throwing underhand. At that time, pitchers essentially just initiated play rather than attempting to control it. Bond, I suspect, helped to advance the game by throwing sidearm, probably in an effort to deceive hitters. For his efforts, he led the NL in strikeouts the first two years of their existence and finished at 97.3% of our decade leader. Also, he posted at least 10 unadjusted pitching WAR every season from 1875-1879. Unlike most players of his era, and most people of his era, Bond lived until the age of 84. In and of itself, that’s an impressive statistic.
#1 Al Spalding: Better known for his sporting goods company than his pitching, I’m dubbing Albert Goodwill Spalding the best pitcher of the first decade of organized baseball. Though he only pitched six full seasons, we’re talking full seasons here, five times topping 400 innings. He also led the league in wins in each of those years, and he was in the top-4 in pitcher WAR all six years he pitched over 11 innings. It’s very close between Spalding and Bond, but I feel comfortable giving the Hall of Fame righty the edge.
One week from today, we’ll take a look at the marginally more stable 1880s.
There’s often discussion about baseball’s most unbreakable record. Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak comes up a lot, as well it should. Others note the changing game and point to Cy Young’s 511 wins. And Will White’s 75 complete games in a season would seem to be pretty safe as well. In this post, however, I’m going to argue that the most unbreakable record is Francisco Rodriguez’s 62 saves in 2008. Let me explain.
I don’t count records from individual games or just a couple of games. For example, nobody is going to break Johnny Vander Meer’s mark by throwing three consecutive no-hitters. But if I just wrote about that, this would be a pretty boring post.
And foolish, made up records don’t count either. For example, nobody with over 30 World Series innings pitched and an ERA below 1.00 will post 155 oWAR ever again. The Babe is the Babe, but that’s a made up record. It’s not standard at all.
We’re talking about single-season records here. Standard ones.
Do you know who the single-season strikeout king is? If you guessed Nolan Ryan’s 383 in 1973, you’re not right. Not even close. He’s just eighth on the list, behind five pitchers from 1884 and two from 1886, including Matt Kilroy and his 513 punchouts. Maybe you don’t want to count numbers from the American Association or the Union Association. If that’s the case, we’re looking at Old Hoss Radbourn’s 441. And maybe we don’t want to count times before the mound was at 60’6”. Then it’s Ryan. Records like this one count, and even in the hyper-high strikeout environment of today’s game, Kilroy seems safe. But the game changes, and I don’t want to say never.
Yes, the game changes. That’s kind of the point of this post.
Back in 1969 when the save became an official statistic, Jack Acker was the single-season leader with 32. The next year, Wayne Granger saved 35. In 1972, it was 37 for Clay Carroll. Next came John Hiller’s 38 in 1973. That lasted all the way until 1983 when Dan Quisenberry saved an amazing 45 games. One year later, Bruce Sutter tied that mark, and then Dave Righetti extended the record to 46 in 1986. That was destroyed by Bobby Thigpen’s 57 in 1990 and then by Francisco Rodriguez’ 62 in 2008. So what I’m saying is there has been tremendous turnover in the single-season saves standard.
But there won’t be anymore. Not ever.
I know what you’re thinking. This guy’s out of his mind! And maybe I am, but not when it comes to this post or this take. Hear me out.
In the Hall debate about Trevor Hoffman and Edgar Martinez, among others, we’ve heard comparisons, which are ridiculous to my mind, between closers and designated hitters. It is a fact that designated hitter has been a position since 1973. Closer, on the other hand is a role. In fact, I find it to be a long-term fad that is ending.
In just the second season of the save being official, there were ten players with at least 22 saves. However, it wasn’t until 1978 that ten “closers” reached 20 saves in the same season again. The first time each of the top-ten reached 25 was 1984. It wasn’t until 1989 that each of the top ten reached 30. By 1993, 38 was the 10th total. We peaked at 41 in 2004, and were between 34 and 39 every year since. Until last year, that is. Yes, closers are saving fewer games.
For years, Mariano Rivera was throwing multiple innings in the post-season. We’re not talking about the same way Rollie Fingers did, but we know Joe Torre appreciated the idea of using his best arm at the most critical time. Then in 2016, something amazing happened. Rather than saving his best pitcher for the ninth (or eighth), Indians manager Terry Francona began to deploy his best arm when it mattered most. Andrew Miller pitched ten games in those playoffs. Once he entered in the eighth, four times in the seventh, twice in the sixth, and three times in the fifth inning. And he never recorded as few as three outs. To me, the closer role changed forever with these playoffs.
Teams will come around more slowly in the regular season, but believe me when I say that they will come around. At least a little. If I knew how to search for one-inning saves with a team up by three runs, I suspect there would have been fewer in 2017 than in the years before. And while that type of save won’t disappear, I suspect we’ll see fewer of them. Let’s say your closer was needed for four outs the night before. Perhaps he’ll be given a 4-1 game off and let one of the ten other capable arms close things out.
That’s coming. And when it does, there will be fewer saves for closers. So yes, it’s a role. And yes, it’s a fad that has changed and will change more.
Baseball has its ebbs and flows. For a period of time there’s more offense, then less, then more again. Since 2014, both leagues have seen their runs scored increase each year. With more runs, scores are further apart, and thus fewer save opportunities.
Couple fewer save opportunities because of scoring with fewer because of managerial choice, and there’s a shrinking window for anyone to approach K-Rod’s 62. Nobody has been within ten of him since he set the mark, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Okay, maybe 62 isn’t baseball’s most unbreakable record. I like hyperbole. But it ain’t going anywhere. The game has changed, and it’s moving away from closers even more. K-Rod is king!
Six months ago, in tribute to a series written by friend-of-the-HoME, verdun2, I shared a baker’s dozen things you might like to know about Fred Carroll, a player I previously knew almost nothing about. Well, I ran into another one of those players, one who I really should know but didn’t, at least not that I recalled at the time. So my shame is your gain. Today, a dozen things you might like to know about Monte Pearson.
Thanks again for the inspiration, v!
An expansion team in 1977, it took until 1982 for the Blue Jays to not finish last. But by 1985 they made the playoffs, and they won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. By now, they’re getting to a point where they’re almost at .500 as a franchise, which is no easy task for a team that was more than 150 games under just three years in.
For whatever reason, Dave Stieb and his 57 Blue Jay WAR made four starts for the White Sox in 1993. Roy Halladay had his best years in Philadelphia. Jose Bautista was all over the place before finding a home up north. Tony Fernandez was shipped to the Padres in the McGroff/Alomar/Carter deal, and he played for five teams on top of that. Carlos Delgado was a Marlin and a Met. Jimmy Key was a Yankee and an Oriole. The list keeps going with one guy after another who played for other teams. When I got to Lloyd Moseby and his 25.9 WAR as a Jay, I thought I had my first honoree. Nope. I guess I blocked out his two years in Detroit. Even though Ernie Whitt, #21, had negative combined WAR at his three other stops, those 294 trips to the plate still count. This is not going to be a pretty Rushmore.
Kevin Pillar: Yep, the defensive whiz is the single best player ever to play for the Jays and only the Jays. At 12.1 career WAR, he’s only tied for 24th among Blue Jay offensive players. Yet, he’s the only one not to play elsewhere. Pillar can’t hit, as his -39 career Rbat shows, but his 65 Rfield shows that he’s a great defender. Of course, it’s only a matter of time until he plays for another team.
Marcus Stroman: It has taken Stroman just 95 career games to reach 10.9 career WAR and become the best Blue Jay hurler ever not to play for another team. Promising in 2014, injured in 2015, struggling in 2016, it was 2017 during which Stroman became a star. He has plenty of time to move from his tie for 15th among Jay pitchers all-time. If he comes close to repeating, he’ll be in the top-10 after 2018.
Luis Leal: From 1980-1985, Leal was about a league average pitcher, finishing his relatively unknown career with a 51-58 record and 10.8 WAR. For a bit of trivia, he was the starter when Len Barker pitched a perfect game for the Indians in 1981.
Ricky Romero: For a minute there, it seemed like Romero might turn into something. Through three years in the major, he had 42 wins and 11.6 WAR. Things went south at some point in 2012 though. There was no injury. It’s just that his mediocre K rate dipped and his dangerously high BB rate rose. Those events in combination made a baseball career unsustainable. He didn’t pitch again in the majors after 2013 and has just 9.7 WAR to show for his career.
Dave Stieb: With nine Blue Jay WAR on Halladay, Stieb is the best player in Jay history, and it’s not really close. Because he never won more than 18 games in a season and only won 176 in his career, he is an incredibly underrated pitcher. But at his 1982-1985 peak, he was far and away baseball’s best pitcher with 29.4 WAR. The only other hurler in the game within ten WAR of Stieb over those four seasons was Mario Soto at 22.2. And if we expand our range of seasons to 1980-1985, again, Stieb leads all of baseball, and he leads all but Steve Carlton by more than ten WAR. How about we expand some more. From 1979-1990, a period of twelve years, Dave Stieb posted 55.7 WAR. Roger Clemens is next at 46.3. Then Bert Blyleven at 41.3. Not a single other pitcher is within 17 WAR. Last one – since 1974, Stieb is fifth among AL pitchers in WAR.
Jose Bautista: He was nothing before he became a Blue Jay. Then in 2010 he exploded for an MLB-leading 54 homers. He’s hit over 200 more since then and made six straight All-Star teams. Whether it’s the 2015 playoff bat flip or the possibly related punch he took from Rougned Odor, Jose Bautista is who I think of when I think of the 21st century Blue Jays.
Tony Fernandez: Fourth on the Jays all-time WAR list, Fernandez makes the Toronto Rushmore because he put up 37.3 WAR in 1450 games with the Jays but only 7.7 in over 700 games elsewhere. Of course, if he never left Toronto, what’s below would not have happened.
Joe Carter: That’s right. On an analytics-oriented blog, we pay tribute to Joe Carter with a place on the Blue Jay Mount Rushmore. In his seven years in Canada, Carter averaged 29 HR and 105 RBI. He also averaged less than 1.2 WAR. He had a mediocre power bat and an incredibly important lineup spot. That explains the runs batted in. Check out the .308 on base percentage in Toronto and the 104 OPS+ for signs that he really wasn’t a very good player. Oh, but he did hit a home run, one of the most famous in baseball history, to get his face etched on this fake edifice. With the Jays trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the sixth game of the World Series, Mitch Williams walked Rickey Henderson, induced a fly out from Devon White, and gave up a single to Paul Molitor to set the stage for Carter. Tom Cheek called it. “Touch ‘em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”
Our final Rushmore installment, the Washington Nationals, is next week.
Eric and I have been working on our HoME for going on five years now, and during that time I’ve revised my evaluation and ranking systems on many, many occasions. What I haven’t done, at least not with proper transparency, is to share the totality of my method with our readers. The primary reason for holding back, I suppose, is that even I wasn’t comfortable with where I was. Also, process posts aren’t so fun to read or write. But it’s time. More and more people are checking out the HoME (thank you!), and with exposure can come criticism. I’m quite critical of other systems that don’t explain how they arrive where they arrive, so I want to correct for that concern here.
What I’m going to do in this post is explain how I convert BBREF WAR to my seasonal WAR totals. Then I explain how I use seasonal WAR totals to rank players.
The two most commonly cited WARs come from our friends at Baseball Reference and Fangraphs. I used to employ a combination of the WAR ratings on each site. I few years ago, however, I stopped using Fangraphs. There are two reasons, both pretty simple. First, I have to admit that I don’t quite understand everything that goes into FG WAR. I’m not suggesting they’re hiding anything. I don’t know that they are. But I understand everything at BBREF and not at FG. It’s easier for me to justify that which I understand, so I use BBREF WAR only. The second reason lacks good science, but I hold to it anyway. The Fangraphs system produces results that I just don’t buy. For example, they say that Don Sutton is the 14th best pitcher ever by career WAR. Tommy John is 22nd, Jim Kaat 27th. Over at BBREF, Sutton is 30th, John 48th, and Kaat 130th. I buy what BBREF is selling, at FG, not so much. Perhaps if I understood exactly why Sutton, for example, grades as he does, I could be swayed. But I don’t think I do.
If you were to ask me which seasonal WAR is more predictive of future results, I’d go with FG. If you were to ask me which seasonal WAR better represents what should have happened, I’d again pick FG. But I don’t think either is what WAR should be about when determining the best players ever. I think it should measure results – what actually happened. And for me, BBREF does that better than FG.
When position players pitch, it counts. Similarly, hitting counts for pitchers. The first of those statements isn’t a very big deal except for a few guys like Monte Ward. But it’s a pretty huge deal for pitchers. Guys like Red Ruffing, Wes Ferrell, and Early Wynn add tremendous value with their bats. On the other hand, Pud Galvin, Lefty Grove, and Stan Coveleski are hurt quite a bit by theirs. This decision took a bit of time for me, but I think it’s clear cut in the end. I’m far more concerned with understanding which pitcher was a more valuable to his team than I am with which player was a better pitcher. WAR is a stat about value. My adjustments need to be related to overall value.
Not Everything Counts Equally
We say the American Association, Union Association, Players League, and Federal League were major leagues. But not all leagues had the value of major leagues, so I make adjustments, not to every season, but to many.
American Association 1882 80% American Association 1883 90% American Association 1884 80% American Association 1885 90% American Association 1886 95% American Association 1887 95% American Association 1888 90% American Association 1889 95% American Association 1890 90% American Association 1890 90% American Association 1891 85% Federal League 1914 75% Federal League 1915 75% Players League 1890 90% Union Association 1884 65%
I’ve considered adjustments to the AL and NL prior to integration, and to the AL for years after that because they lagged behind the NL. I haven’t adjusted those years, though I still may if I can come up with a good way.
Some folks don’t count seasons with negative WAR. They argue that teams should have known better and that the players shouldn’t have been in the majors. Those who don’t count negative seasons adjust for what should have happened rather than what actually did happen. So they should also adjust for time missed to military service. The should adjust for time spent in the minors when the player should have been in the majors. They should adjust for times when pitchers shouldn’t have been on the mound due to injury, or when they should have been lifted due to ineffectiveness. They should adjust for a ton of things if they’re just going to dump seasons where the player shouldn’t have been in the majors. I prefer to measure what happened, not to speculate about what might have been.
Adjustments for Military Service
I do not make any. Simply, I want to evaluate what happened, not what may have happened.
Defensive Regression Analysis
I’ve written about this a bunch of times. But if you really want to learn about it, check out the Michael Humphreys articles at Fangraphs. Better yet, buy his book, Wizardry. In short, I integrate the findings of Humphreys, located at The Baseball Gauge, because they make sense. He doesn’t over-count errors. He uses freely available statistics. He starts thinking with the team level, not the player level. Most of all, his results pass the sniff test. For example, players generally see their DRAs decrease as they age, which is exactly what we expect.
But I could be wrong in my appreciation for DRA, so I don’t completely substitute it for Rfield. Rather, I use DRA at 70% weight and Rfield at 30% weight since the mound moved to 60’6”. Before that, I use them at 50% each. For catchers, I use 70% Rfield and 30% DRA for all seasons. When I’m trying to make adjustments like this, I really appreciate how BBREF’s WAR has components you can substitute if you prefer them.
Yankee Stadium LF Arm Adjustment
Continuing with our DRA adjustments, I follow Michael Humphreys’ recommendation and adjust the arm of Yankee left fielders down by half a run for every 145 innings. That’s because, simply, Yankee Stadium makes things easier on left fielders. I used to make adjustments for Fenway and for Coors as well, but @DanHirsch has done such a phenomenal job at The Baseball Gauge making those adjustments for us, so I no longer have to. If you’re interested in DRA, check out that site’s player pages under defense. Here’s Omar Vizquel’s page.
Playing Time Adjustment
Seasons today typically have 162 games. But before 1961 in the AL and 1962 in the NL, it was a 154-game schedule. And in the game’s early days, it was different still. Plus, in seasons like 1995, 1994, 1981, 1972, and others, teams have played shorter schedules. I have some desire to adjust for changes essentially beyond the historical control of players. However, I do not make every season equal to 162 games. First, I am loathe to credit players for things that didn’t happen. So I had to think about what’s worse, crediting players for things they didn’t actually do or comparing apples (seasons of 162 games) to things that aren’t quite apples (seasons of fewer than 162 games). I decided to give some extra credit. For two reasons, it can’t be full credit. First, it didn’t actually happen. And second, players have a non-zero chance of injury in those extra games. So I try to get players whose teams played nearly 162 games a greater percentage of the way toward 162 than those who played fewer.
Stay with me now if you can. I take a quarter of the difference between team games and 162. I add that number to the percentage of 162 games his team played, and I add that percentage of his yearly WAR to his yearly WAR to get my updated yearly WAR.
Maybe an example would work? Let’s say a team has a schedule that was exactly 60% as long as a 162 game schedule. (Forget for a moment that such a schedule would be 97.2 games long. Just stick with the example). That season is 40% shy of 100% of 162. So I take a quarter of that 40%, or 10%, and I add it to the 60% the team actually played, or 70%. What I do then is take 70% of the difference between the theoretical 162-game WAR and the actual WAR, and I add that to the actual WAR to come up with my adjusted WAR.
Basically, I want to add some credit, but not all. I want to respect the chance for injury, and I think I do that.
There was a time when I made pretty big adjustments for catchers, trying to see them like other position players. But the truth is they’re not like other position players. They play fewer games, have shorter careers, and move away from their position to protect their bodies more frequently than players of other positions. I’ve stopped making that adjustment for two reasons. First, it’s inconsistent with other things I believe in. I don’t want to give credit for something that didn’t happen. Second, the theory at the HoME that we should elect an approximately equal number of players at each position eliminates the need for an adjustment. We’re going to get enough catchers into the HoME without any artificial inflation.
If you’re paying close attention to position distribution at the HoME, however, you’d note that catchers lag behind other positions. There are reasons for that. The main reason is that catchers play other positions, but almost no non-catchers ever catch. Johnny Bench, for example, is 79% a catcher, 9% a third baseman, 7% a first baseman, 3% a left fielder, and 3% a right fielder. So catchers increase the number of HoMErs at positions other than catcher, though there are only eight non-catcher HoMErs who contribute anything at catcher. Anyway, while I’ve digressed from explaining my system, I think it’s an important tangent to have taken.
In 2012, Max Marchi wrote a series of posts at Baseball Prospectus relating to how catchers handle pitchers. You can read up on the detail if you choose. Let me just say that I accept his methodology, but I don’t accept it completely. For catchers from 1948 (the farthest back we have Retrosheet data) through 2011, Marchi has career runs saved through pitcher handling. I divide that number by career games caught to see how many runs were saved on a per-game basis. Then I multiply that number by the number of games caught in a season. However, since I only believe this system to be good, not perfect, not with any guarantee of being correct, I take just one quarter of that final number and add it to the catcher’s annual WAR. One reason Eric’s system and mine diverge is that he includes a higher percentage of the Marchi adjustment. I think we understand catcher value less well than that of any other position. I’m not quite willing to adopt anything in full before there’s widespread mainstream acceptance of it.
Before 1893, the game was different. For starters, the mound was only 50 feet away from the plate. That meant pitchers could generate the power necessary with less effort. Thus, they could pitch more innings. To compensate for the huge pitcher inning totals in the 50 foot era, I count only 85% of their seasonal WAR.
Before 1883, pitchers essentially had to throw the ball underhand. They had a role of initiating play more than a role of trying to keep the batter from hitting. Thus, for pitchers before 1883, I take only 70% of the above number, or 60% of their seasonal WAR.
Pitching is physically demanding. I believe that pitchers have a limited number of pitches in their arms before injury will set in. Some get lucky and age out before their arms fall off, but many are not so lucky. Because of this belief, I offer a bonus for playoff innings pitched. This isn’t a bonus based on quality; it’s an acknowledgment that innings during the playoffs can cost innings during subsequent regular seasons. I want to credit the wear and tear on the arm, which I think can be seen by innings, not by quality, which I think would even out over time if given enough innings.
To add seasonal credit, I determine a pitcher’s WAR rate per 250 innings and multiply that rate by playoff innings before dividing by 250. For Eppa Rixey’s 6.67 innings in the 1915 World Series, for example, he gets 0.08 WAR to add to his seasonal total. In 1998, David Wells threw 30.67 playoff innings, which added 0.49 WAR to his seasonal total. And last October, Justin Verlander threw 36.67 innings, which temporarily adds 0.82 WAR to his total. As his career WAR rate improves or declines, that number will change as well.
There are lots of ways one could determine where to place a player when trying to determine the best players at a particular position. I choose the simplest, the place he played the most games, disregarding games at designated hitter. I choose games because it’s easier to defend than anything else. It doesn’t rely on feel. I don’t ever have to try to parse WAR in an individual season where someone played six different positions. For every Ernie Banks who I call a 1B when most others call a SS, there are dozens of other easy calls that I don’t have to worry about. Yes, I know, designated hitter is a position. The reason I disregard games at DH is because there is not a large enough group of great career designated hitters to measure those players against a group of peers.
So with the adjustments above, I determined my seasonal WAR for 1511 players. That’s 454 pitchers and 1057 position players. For reference, there are 996 players in history with at least 5000 plate appearances. That’s how wide (or how narrow, if you prefer) my database is. With seasonal WAR, I can begin to create MAPES.
Like Eric’s CHEWS (CHalek’s Equivalent WAR System), MAPES (Miller’s Awesome Player Evaluation System) is a derivative of Jay Jaffe’s JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system). I like my name most because it connects to Cliff Mapes, an outfielder who had a five-year run, mostly for the Yankees, from 1948-1952. Basically, I’m just trying to be cute.
When I started, I adjusted MAPES so it didn’t fall short where I thought Jaffe’s did. In my opinion, Jaffe trades simplicity for quality or accuracy. Let me explain.
JAWS is the average of career WAR and peak WAR, measured by a player’s seven best seasons, which don’t have to be consecutive. Why seven? What if someone has a peak of six years? Or eight? And why is it the average of career and the seven best? That’s necessarily weighted toward career (unless you produced negative WAR outside of your best seven seasons).
I created a system, which I’ve since dumped for reasons I’ll explain below, that gave credit to players for each season, weighing their best most, and their worst least, basically. Of course, while my system was more “accurate”, whatever that word means, the results it produced were hardly different at all from Jaffe’s. Jaffe and Eric would both say that my system dealt in an unnecessary area of minutiae, that the 45th best 2B is pretty much the same as the 48th best 2B. Further, none of us would ever say for certain that the guy we have ranked 45th best was actually the better player. No matter how specific, these are just estimates. They’re really just sorting systems. Even BBREF says that seasonal WAR that’s 1-2 apart shouldn’t be considered definitive.
While my position actually wasn’t any better than Jaffe’s, I continued to think we needed something less rigid than just the seven best seasons and the career.
Arguing for Consecutive
When JAWS began, it considered a player’s seven best consecutive seasons. Jaffe has since modified that to non-consecutive seasons. Eric agrees. And so do I, to an extent. While we cannot get a sense of a player’s greatness in a system that could easily not include his best or second best season, we also cannot do so if we don’t count the extended period of time when he was at his best, trying to ignore the essentially false construct of a baseball season. So I do consider consecutive seasons also.
Yes, more factors make my system more complex and less translatable. They also make it marginally more defensible.
Eric did the work in April and August with CHEWS+. Adam Darowski did it before we did with his Hall Rating. For the math, check out Eric’s excellent CHEWS+ post. A point of his system, Adams, and now MAPES+ is to index to 100. If you’re at 110, you’re 10% better than the level needed to be a HoMEr. If you’re at 90, you’re 10% worse. I think if you’re at 110+, you’re almost always going to be in. If you’re below 90, you’re almost always going to be out. And if you’re in between, there’s a discussion to be had. Basically.
As a peak voter, I include a player’s best more than I do his career. After all, it’s a player’s peak performance that does the most to drive his team toward the playoffs. My formula for position players is 37.5% peak +12.5% prime + 12.5% consecutive + 37.5% career. To get the numbers for peak, prime, consecutive, and career, I take the median of the top X pitchers and top X players by defensive position. Since there are 226 players in the HoME and I believe in a 70/30 hitter/pitcher split, I’m looking at about 20 players per position in the HoME and about 70 pitchers, I look at the median of the top-40 by defensive position and top 140 pitchers to determine what numbers to use for peak, prime, consecutive, and career.
Defining Peak, Prime, Consecutive, and Career
I’ll start with career since it’s easiest. It’s the total career WAR with my adjustments. All seasons count. And all seasons count equally.
I continue to use my seasonal WAR adjustments for the three categories that follow.
Jay Jaffe calls the best seven non-consecutive seasons a player’s peak. Since there’s no good reason seven is the right number, I take the average of the medians explained above of the best 5, 6, 7, and 8 seasons. It’s hardly any additional calculation, and I think I encompass more of what reasonable people would call a peak.
Consecutive is easy enough. But since the more consecutive years are included, themore likely a down year is included, I look at a relatively small number of seasons for the score of consecutive. My consecutive score is the average of the medians of the 3, 4, and 5 best consecutive seasons.
Because I lean peak but don’t only reside there, I want to include another factor that will help to include players who were solid for longer than their peaks but didn’t necessarily tack on year after year of passable ball after their primes. For my prime score, I look at the average of the medians for the best 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 seasons.
A Change for Pitchers
If you consider my reasoning for adding a playoff bonus for pitchers but not a similar bonus for hitters, you’ll understand why my formula for ranking pitchers is a little different than for hitters. Innings add value to the game’s best pitchers. They also add strain. Because too many pitchers have their best seasons followed by less great seasons, I shift the consecutive factor to peak. My formula for pitchers is 50.0% peak +12.5% prime + 37.5% career.
I suppose you could call me out for inconsistency here, but the removal of consecutive feels right. And the results make sense. Every pitcher at 110+ is in or going. Every pitcher below 90 is out or wouldn’t get in if he retired today. And the guys in between represent a pretty wide borderline about whom we can debate.
Putting It All Together
Once I have my peak, prime, consecutive, and career scores, I weigh them as I explained above. I then multiply by 100 to get my MAPES+ score. Babe Ruth, as you might expect, comes out best. His 245.60 represents someone 145% over the borderline. The closest to exactly 100.00, the definition of the borderline, is Roy White at 100.01. The weakest guy I have ranked thus far is Addison Russell at 18.25, though he still has almost his entire career in front of him. The weakest retired guy overall is Charlie Comiskey at 25.02, or about 75% worse than the borderline. He got into our data set early in the process because he’s in the Hall of Fame, not because he should really be there.
I like my MAPES+ system more than any I have used in the past. Indexing to 100 is smart. I like the idea that no one exact number represents peak. And I like tilting toward peak but not residing only there. I’m troubled by using different systems for hitters and pitchers though. And I don’t know that my playoff bonus for pitchers is exactly right. Further, I expect that I’ll shift my preference more or less toward peak or prime as we move forward, and I’ll tweak totals on occasion. Still, I like this system a lot. It’s the strongest I’ve put together, thanks in huge part to Eric doing a lot of the leg work and providing the inspiration.
MLB’s second try at putting a franchise in Washington, these Senators lasted from 1961-1971. Since then, they’ve been the Texas Rangers. And though the club has cycled through a bunch of stars, they haven’t had a tremendous amount of success overall. Their best clubs lost the 2010 World Series to the Giants and the 2011 Fall Classic to the Cardinals. In that one they were up three games to two and up two runs heading to the bottom of the tenth. But Darren Oliver and Scott Feldman allowed two runs in the tenth, and then Mark Lowe gave up a David Freese solo homer to start and finish the eleventh.
The Rangers have had a ton of guys play for other teams. Pudge Rodriguez and his 49.9 TEX WAR put up 18.5 elsewhere. Rafael Palmeiro had 44.4 for the Rangers and 27.2 elsewhere. The best year of Adrian Beltre’s great career was with the Dodgers, and he has more WAR outside of Texas than in it. Buddy Bell, Jim Sundberg, and Charlie Hough played for three other teams. Texas foolishly shipped Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder. Toby Harrah, Kenny Rogers, Juan Gonzalez, and Frank Howard played elsewhere too. And Yu Darvish fell off the Mount with a deadline deal to the Dodgers.
Elvis Andrus: Ranked #11 in Ranger history with 28.8 WAR is their current shortstop who’s signed to a very good contract. Eight years and $118 million seemed like a ton when they signed him, and it got worse because Andrus never became a superstar. However, salaries have escalated enough that a 2.5-3.0 WAR shortstop is worth the $15 million they’re giving to Elvis. And 2017 might have been his best season, which is good and bad for Texas. I suspect he’ll opt out of $73 million after next season and fall off the Ranger Rushmore.
Rusty Greer: A pretty forgettable guy, I think, Greer ranks #16 in career Ranger WAR at 22.3. His aging curve is really normal, getting to the majors at 25, peaking at 27, and losing a little each year until he was basically done at 32. Greer hit .111 without an extra base hit or an RBI in three ALDS losses to the Yankees. On the positive side, he did save Kenny Rogers’ perfect game with a diving catch.
Roger Pavlik: Perhaps my favorite thing about this project is that is reminds me of players like Pavlik, those who would otherwise be lost to time but are actually among the best in history to never play for another franchise. Pavlik, a righty starter, posted 10.6 career WAR for the Rangers from 1992-1998. He won 47 games, good for 19th in the history of the franchise. He also represented the Rangers in the 1996 All-Star Game, allowing two runs, including a Ken Caminiti home run, in his two innings.
Matt Harrison: Harrison totaled 9.1 WAR in his 2008-2015 career, all with the Rangers, obviously. He really made it as a starter for only two years, totaling over 10 WAR on the mound in 2011 and 2012. For the rest of his career, he was below replacement level. Like Pavlik, he made one All-Star team, this in 2012. He allowed a home run to Melky Cabrera and triples to Rafael Furcal and Ryan Braun, giving up three runs in his inning.
My Ranger Rushmore
Pudge Rodriguez: He leads the Rangers in WAR, is one of the handful of best catchers ever, and performed better in Texas than everywhere else combined.
Nolan Ryan: The Dallas Morning News calls the signing of the 42-year-old Ryan in 1989 one of the top five moments in Ranger history. So who am I to disagree? He totaled over 15 WAR in five years from ages 42-46. In 2008 he became team president, and in 2011 he was named CEO. He held both titles until he left the Rangers in October of 2013. And his is the only number the Rangers have ever retired among those who have played for them.
Buddy Bell: One of the game’s most underrated players ever, he’s also an incredibly underrated Ranger. And why wouldn’t he be underrated. His career overlapped with parts of the careers of Brooks Robinson, Wade Boggs, Ron Santo, and Paul Molitor. And he was pretty much an exact contemporary of Mike Schmidt and George Brett. Further, he was a glove-first third sacker who played for four teams but never once made the playoffs. He never topped 20 homers, never scored 90 runs, and drove in more than 83 just once. He has no Black Ink to speak of, hit just .279 for his career, and was caught stealing waaaay more than he was successful. Oh, and he was an awful manager. So at this point you must be thinking his inclusion on the Ranger Rushmore is just flat wrong. Well, I don’t think so. With my conversions, here’s how I measure his six full seasons as a Ranger: 6.3, 7.5, 7.6, 6.3, 5.0, 5.5. That’s a superstar.
Jim Sundberg: Rafael Palmeiro, Adrian Beltre, and Ian Kinsler all had more WAR as a Ranger, but they also had significant careers elsewhere. Sundberg started with the Rangers in 1974 and finished with them in 1989. In between he made a pair of All-Star teams and won six Gold Gloves in Texas. He’s actually a borderline HoMEr too. While you can’t just do such a thing, giving Sundberg just one 6-win season on top of what he did would possibly be enough.
In seven days, it’ll be the San Francisco Giants turn.
Not too long ago I read a tweet calling Jim Palmer an inner circle Hall of Famer. I immediately recoiled. Then I did what any stats guy or gal would do. I got out my spreadsheet.
What I found is Palmer’s name next to the number 31 among hurlers. When I last checked with Eric, he had Palmer 35th. And by JAWS, he’s 37th. I was satisfied; I felt my initial reaction was pretty much justified. But then I thought some more and realized that if I’m going to take pride in what I thought was a correct reaction, I’d better have an answer to who belongs in the inner circle.
So let’s think about the HoME. As of today, we’ve inducted 220 players. How many of those players do we think should be in the inner circle? Through the magic of BBREF, I know that there have been approximately 19,100 players in major league history. That means one out of 86 or 87 players ever is in the HoME. If we took the same percentage as the inner circle, we’d be looking at three guys, maybe Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Walter Johnson. Maybe. But three guys don’t form a good circle.
Let’s reconsider. If, for example, we consider only hitters who had extensive careers, perhaps we put the mark at 5,000 plate appearances. Then we may have something. There are just shy of 1,000 hitters at that level, and there are about 160 hitters in the HoME. So about 16% of all players with what I’m calling extensive careers are in the HoME. And if we take 16% of the players in the HoME, we have 35 players in the HoME’s inner circle. That would be 9-10 pitchers and 25-26 hitters. And that seems reasonable enough.
So by my fictional and unofficial standard, here’s the inner circle of the Hall of Miller and Eric, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.
C: Johnny Bench
1B: Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Cap Anson, Jimmie Foxx, Roger Connor
2B: Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Joe Morgan
3B: Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews
SS: Honus Wagner
LF: Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson
CF: Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle
RF: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente
P: Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Pete Alexander, Kid Nichols, Tom Seaver, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson
Do you think my inner circle is too large? Too small? Missing someone? Please let me know in the comments.
The new guys are fun to chart here, but they’re not easy. I don’t envy the amount of work Eric has had to do since he’s had to deal with three of the four newest franchises. From their first year of 1998 through 2007, the Rays only finished as high as fourth once. The next year they went to the World Series, losing to the Phillies in five games. From there, they remained competitive for five years before falling back toward the bottom of the AL East of late.
There isn’t a whole lot of greatness in this team’s history to see go elsewhere. Ben Zobrist, second in career Ray WAR, had to make money in free agency. Same with Carl Crawford and David Price. There’s not a lot of greatness ever to have a sustained run in Tampa thus far. Only five guys have even reached 20 WAR in Tampa.
Evan Longoria: There can be little doubt that Longoria at 50.0 WAR is the greatest player in Ray history. The guy in second place on has 72% of his WAR, he leads the team in almost all major counting stats. Of course, he’s no longer a Ray, and he’ll fall off Tampa’s Rushmore on Opening Day in a few months. If he remains healthy, which he very much has been over the last five years, it’s likely he becomes the first real Rays Hall of Famer.
Kevin Kiermaier: Would you have known that he’s fourth in Tampa history in WAR? I bet not. Kiermaier checks in at 21.5, though he has only played more than 2/3 of a season once. And he has a bat that’s just a shade above average. But his glove is incredible. An outfielder with more dWAR than oWAR is quite strange, and it’s how a player who we hardly know is fourth in franchise history in WAR.
Desmond Jennings: When I think about guys who have failed in the last decade, Jennings is right near the top of my list. He came from the minors with speed and what seemed to be a plus bat. While we should have known the speed would fade, we thought the bat would develop. It never did, and Jennings has never posted even 3.5 WAR in a year. Last February he signed with the Reds. They released him before the season began, and he was picked up by the Mets. He stunk in AAA, was released in June, and is more likely to fall off this list because he and his 13.2 WAR are passed than because he plays for another team.
Chris Archer: With a career record of 51-63, Archer is the best pitcher in Ray history not to play for another team. What, you were thinking Andy Sonnanstine? After getting off to a strong start as a rookie in 2013, Archer took a small step forward the next year before breaking out in 2015. The last two years, he’s been more of a guy who’d take the ball every five days rather than a star, but teams need guys who will pitch 200+ innings. A strong season out of Alex Cobb next year might see Archer displaced. Still, it’s a fine honor for as long as it lasts.
Ben Zobrist: Though he didn’t reach the majors until 25 or become a regular until 28, Zobrist is the closest thing we’ve seen to Tony Phillips since Tony Phillips. And to remember what a compliment that is, don’t forget that Phillips is in the HoME. Zobrist is trying to put together a HoME career of his own, and though he looks like he’ll fall a little short, with 36 WAR he’s second in franchise history and belongs here.
Carl Crawford: If you saw what Crawford did in Boston or Los Angeles, you might forget how dynamic he was for a time in Tampa. He led the league in steals and triples four times each, and he generally made pitchers go crazy. An outstanding defender, his final season in Tampa saw him as legitimate MVP candidate, though the voters correctly got the trophy to Josh Hamilton. Let’s just remember Crawford and his 35.5 WAR as a Ray.
Joe Maddon: I considered David Price for this slot, and I even considered etching Evan Longoria’s face a second time. But I went with Maddon, the man whose novel and laid back style led the Devil Rays to two consecutive last place finishes followed by an AL pennant for the “Devil”-less Rays in 2008. Sure, they were beaten by the Phillies in five games with three losses of the one-run variety, but that season put the team on the map. They’d go on to two more playoff runs before Maddon and his 754 Tampa wins moved to the Cubs in 2015. There are other decent calls, of course, but I’m happy to stick with this one.
The San Diego Padres are on deck.
Now more than 40 years old, it seems strange to call the Seattle Mariners one of baseball’s newer teams, but they are. Getting started in 1977, the first time they didn’t finish in the bottom half of the division was their 1995 ALCS loss. They’ve made it that far two other times since, in 2000 and 2001 losses to the Yankees. The latter was particularly painful because that club won 116 games in the regular season. Of teams at least as old, only the San Diego Padres have been as historically poor as the Mariners. Given all of the talent Seattle has had over the years, it’s a bit of a surprise they’re historically so bad.
Ken Griffey leads the team in career WAR, but he spent a decade outside the great northwest. Ichiro is clearly a Mariner, though he continues to accumulate plate appearances elsewhere. Randy Johnson might feel like a Mariner, though he had only one season of innings less in Arizona. Alex Rodriguez not so much, but he’s sixth in team WAR.
Edgar Martinez: I’d say a moniker of Mr. Mariner would be fitting for the guy second in team WAR with 68. He never played for another team in the majors or minors. On his eighth ballot last year, Edgar reached 58.6% of the vote. Here’s hoping the writers figure it out either this year or next. He belongs in the Hall, in spite of his time at DH. One of my favorite right handed swings ever.
Felix Hernandez: He’s been around forever, and he’s still just 31. Is he starting to break down? Maybe. But he has some years to reinvent himself and keep pushing toward a Hall of Fame career. In the minds of many voters, the fact that he has reached 15 wins only three times will hold him back.
Kyle Seager: On one hand, you think he can’t be here. On the other, he’s actually eighth in Mariner history in career WAR with 25 and counting. He wasn’t supposed to be a star, and I really don’t expect his run to last much longer. But he was quite good for a while, ninth among AL positions players in WAR for half a decade from 2012-2016.
Hisashi Iwakuma: In the top-20 in team history in WAR, the Japanese righty just finished his sixth season in Seattle and posted 2+ WAR every year before this one, including his signature 2013 campaign when it was 7.0.
Ken Griffey: Edgar might be Mr. Mariner to me, but Griffey still leads things off here. Sure, he was outside of Seattle for a decade, but his time in Seattle topped his time out of it 70.4 WAR to 13.1. From 1990-2000, he was the game’s best player other than Barry Bonds. That’s a pretty incredible run.
Ichiro Suzuki: There’s nothing to say about him that hasn’t already been said, really. I’m just happy he’s continued to produce a bit since leaving Seattle so I don’t get in a fight with the entire baseball loving community for thinking he’s a borderline Hall of Famer.
Felix Hernandez: It’s not that tough a call between the King and the Big Unit. Johnson was at his best elsewhere, and Felix hasn’t ever been elsewhere. If he doesn’t leave Seattle, there’s a shot he challenges Griffey as the best in franchise history.
Check out the NL’s greatest franchise, the St. Louis Cardinals, next week.
Jay Jaffe’s Cooperstown Casebook was a fun read. And Eric did a wonderful job interviewing the creator of JAWS. Whenever I’m reading a book like Jaffe’s, I search for nuggets of goodness that I should already know but for some reason I don’t. That’s exactly what happened when Jaffe turned me onto the fact Dawson’s Wrigley/non-Wrigley splits in ’87 were so remarkable.
At home, Dawson hit 27 long balls. On the road, it was 22. Really, there’s no huge difference in those numbers. It was 13 doubles in Wrigley and 11 on the road. What’s kind of amazing is that he drove in exactly 44 guys who weren’t himself at home and away. That in combination with what comes next will offer another data point as to just how silly the RBI is.
In terms of triple slash rates, this is where we see exactly what Jaffe was talking about. At home it was .332/.373/.668. Dawson was a great, great player in Chicago. On the road, the line was .246/.288/.480. For an idea of just how bad those first two numbers are, the average 8th place hitter in the NL in 1987 slashed .238/.312/.335. On the road, Dawson was a #8 hitter with power. At home it was a .321 BABIP with just three GIDP. On the road, it was a .233 BABIP with a dozen GIDP. He was an MVP and then some at home; on the road he may have been below replacement level.
One more split. When ahead, Dawson hit .345/.391/.700. Behind it was .258/.282/.529. Sure, when behind, it could very well have meant the team was facing a pitcher who really had it going. Of course, that’s not what the overall NL stats say. They had guys slashing .257/.329/.728 when ahead and .262/.323/.403 when behind. In other words, hitters overall fared as well ahead or behind. Dawson only hit well when the Cubs were already ahead. Not pretty at all.
You probably know that Dawson and his 49 homers were named NL MVP in what was one of the worst votes in bad voting history. His Cubs finished in last place, and Dawson produced only 4.0 WAR. If voters wanted a player on a last place team, they could have taken Tony Gwynn and his 8.5 WAR. If they wanted a big home run hitter on a stinky team, they could have taken Dale Murphy, his 44 homers, his 7.7 WAR, and his past MVP cred. Maybe they wanted someone on a team competing for a pennant though. Dawson’s former teammate, Tim Raines, had 6.7 WAR. Darryl Strawberry had 6.4. And if you want a pennant winner, Ozzie Smith had 6.4 himself.
Maybe it was Dawson’s glove that got him the MVP award? Well, both DRA and Rfield have the Gold Glove winner as below average defensively. Thirty years ago wasn’t a great time for awards voters.
In Dawson’s career, he only played at the MVP-level in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He was also excellent in 1980, 1982, and 1983. In fact, aside from Mike Schmidt and Robin Yount, Dawson had the most WAR by a position player from 1980-1983. Aside from that peak, Dawson was a useful player for a long, long time. He’s one of only ten right fielders ever with fifteen seasons of 2+ wins. He’s quite an easy Hall call. However, 1987 was about his eighth best season. He couldn’t hit on the road, he couldn’t hit when the Cubs were behind, his team finished in last place, his below average defense didn’t deserve a Gold Glove, and his everything else made for a horrible Most Valuable Player trophy.