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RIP, Players Falling Off the 2019 Ballot

Today will be our final word on many of the players who appeared on the 2018 BBWAA ballot. Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Miguel Tejada will remain part of our consideration set for some time, though they’ll get some love here today. As for everyone else, they’re done unless there’s a Baines-like flood of players who get into the Hall in the next few years or we learn something we don’t expect. Hey, it’s possible.

Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Cupid Childs, Heinie Groh and Larry Doby are now in the Hall of Miller and Eric while the 17 guys below, they’re on the outside looking in – most of them forever, but up to a few, just for now.

Rick Ankiel: An interesting player from a historical perspective, Ankiel likely didn’t belong on the ballot with only 8.9 career WAR. If you know a way to use BBREF’s Play Index to find the number of players who have at least 10 wins, 10 homers, and 10 stolen bases in separate seasons, I’d be very interested in the result. (If I get some time, I might try to look for this the hard way).

Jason Bay: Bay won the Rookie of the Year trophy, became a star in Pittsburgh, was shipped to Boston because of salary concerns, remained a star, then signed with the Mets as a free agent and became much less of a player. We shouldn’t be surprised. Bay had a nice little peak from 2005-2009. By 2010, the 4-time 30 home run hitter was 31. Decline should have been expected for a guy who won’t be going to the HoME but ranks ahead of Hall of Famer Chick Hafey.

Lance Berkman, 2012Lance Berkman: It says all we need to say about Berkman here just to list the players within three places of him by CHEWS or MAPES: Harmon Killebrew, David Ortiz, Tony Perez, Frank Chance, John Olerud, Jason Giambi, Jake Beckley, Fred Tenney, and Harry Stovey. Berkman is on the wrong side of the line, but make no mistake, he’s within shouting distance of that line.

Freddy Garcia: The Chief reached double figures in wins nine times, made two All-Star teams, and received Cy Young consideration two times. During his 1999-2006 heyday, only 14 pitchers had more value per WAR. His best postseason start came in the closeout game of the 2005 World Series when he went seven innings of a combined 1-0 shutout of the Astros to complete the sweep. A very nice career worth celebrating by having his name on the Hall ballot. And hey, he had more value than Jesse Haines and a couple of Hall relievers.

Jon Garland: The 2005 All-Star won in double figures for nine consecutive years. He was the youngest player in the AL when he debuted in 2000, and he pitched quite well in his two postseason starts, allowing only four earned runs in sixteen innings. A fine career for sure.

Travis Hafner: From 2004-2006, Hafner was a beast. Only Albert Pujols had more value by Rbat over those three seasons. Taking his worst number in each category, his triple slash was /305/.408/.583. He won two OPS+ titles, yet he made no All-Star teams. I’m sort of surprised Bill Livingston didn’t submit a ballot this year so he could vote for Omar again as well as Hafner. He’s a dead ringer for more celebrated sluggers Prince Fielder, Mo Vaughn, and Paul Konerko in value.

Ted Lilly: Continuing a pattern among starters on this list, Lilly won 10+ games nine times. In 2003, he pitched two games in the ALDS against the Red Sox. He allowed zero earned runs in nine innings but took two losses. In fact, he was handed the loss in each of his five postseason games. During his 2007-2009 peak though, only a dozen pitchers outperformed him by WAR. It’s nice that Lilly made an appearance on this ballot.

Derek Lowe, 2004Derek Lowe: It seems like it’s some sort of law that pitchers on this ballot won in double figures exactly nine times. Unlike the few above, however, he had a bunch of other career highlights too. Though he made only two All-Star teams, when he was great, he was historically great. Only Lowe, Dennis Eckersley, and John Smoltz can boast 150+ career wins and 75+ career saves. Lowe also pitched a no-hitter in 2004. And he won the closeout game against the Angels, the Yankees, and the Cardinals in 2004 as the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. It’s nice to review some of the career highlights, particularly for a guy like this.

Darren Oliver: Oliver had two careers, one as a mediocre or worse starter and one as a very effective lefty reliever. From 2006-2013, in his last 400+ innings, almost all in relief, he posted a 149 ERA+, not something we’d have expected from the guy whose ERA+ was only 82 over the previous five seasons, almost all as a starter.

Roy Oswalt: Oswalt wasn’t good; he was great, at least for a while. Of course, he too won ten or more games exactly nine times in his career. He ranks 81st by CHEWS+, in front of three HoMErs. He ranks 84th by MAPES+, in front of five HoMErs. From 2001-2008, only HoMErs Randy Johnson, Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, and Curt Schilling had more value. While he’s far from a shoe in for the HoME, in fact I’d consider him an underdog, the three-time All-Star and 2004 NLCS MVP who pitched a no-hitter in 2003 will absolutely continue to be discussed around here in the future. If our rules allowed us to swap him in for Chuck Finley, we would have to seriously consider it.

Andy Pettitte, 2017Andy Pettitte: Don’t tell Eric, but I think Pettitte is going to be a HoMEr one day. I was once against Pettitte but can’t quite get there now. I rank him 73rd, ahead of seven HoME pitchers. Eric sees him 68th, in front of eight HoME hurlers. In the coming months, I plan to consider an overhaul of my pitcher rankings to highlight WAA in a way I don’t right now. Should Pettitte remain ranked similarly to how he is today, he’ll likely find a place within our hallowed halls in the next few years. More about him in the coming months, for sure.

Juan Pierre: I’m happy he didn’t get a vote. He didn’t deserve one. He won three stolen base titles, two hit titles, and a triples title. Unfortunately, he also won seven caught stealing titles. While he’s one of the most prolific base stealers we’ve seen, 13th overall since the formation of the American League, his 75% success rate says he didn’t help his teams too much by stealing. And in the playoffs, he was successful in just three of eight attempts. Anyway, he didn’t get a vote, but he did get a level of respect he deserved by having his name on the ballot.

Placido Polanco: I’m happier about him than I am about Pierre. Polonco received two votes. Since he wasn’t one of the ten best players on the ballot, I suppose he shouldn’t have gotten them. Still, he’s 44th by MAPES+ and 49th by CHEWS+. If I could have only the two-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, and 2006 ALCS MVP or Bill Mazeroski in the Hall, I believe it would be Polanco. And if it were only him or Vizquel, c’mon! Guys like Davey Lopes, Jim Gilliam, and Nellie Fox are within three MAPES+ points of Polanco. He had a wonderful and underrated career.

Miguel Tejada, 1998Miguel Tejada: The 2002 AL MVP was an iron man and a force. From 2000-2006, he was the seventh most valuable position player in the game. The top six are all in the HoME. Tejada is close. Eric and I agree that the only better shortstop outside the HoME was Hughie Jennings. He’s obviously never getting into the Hall of Fame after he received a 105 game PED suspension and perjured himself before Congress a few years earlier. Still, if the Hall goes big the next few years, there’s a shot Tejada finds a way into the HoME. A shot.

Vernon Wells: The three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner made over $131 million playing the game he loved. That’s cool.

Kevin Youkilis: The Greek God of Walks drew a lot of walks, as you might have guessed. He got a late start, had a short peak, and he was done. But during that peak from 2007-2010 he put up the sixth most WAR among position players. Youk made three All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove, owns two World Series rings, and posted a career .306/.376/.568 playoff line in 125 trips to the plate. You’d be right to think of him as similar in value to Ted Kluszewski, Tino Martinez, or Andres Galarraga.

Michael Young: Texas voters really like Young. He got nine votes, and all that I could identify came from his hometown writers (though I admit not looking hard to learn differently). The four-time All-Star and 2005 batting champ had a nice career, not so different in value from that of Omar Vizquel. And that says it all.

Our 2019 election is now in the books. As always, we remind you to take a look at our Honorees page to see the plaques of our new members and all of the members of the Hall of Miller and Eric. And come back a week from today when we discuss the players who almost got to the HoME this year.

Miller

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A Ballot Grading Resolution?

Michael Young, 2012

Yeah, he got another vote.

It’s the new year, and as such, it’s time for a bit of introspection. Each semester when I begin to teach persuasion, I talk to my students about the opinions we all hold. We, necessarily, believe that each one of our individual opinions is correct (if we didn’t think we were correct, we wouldn’t hold that opinion). At the same time, we know that not all of our opinions are correct since we’re not perfect. Thus, we need to keep thinking about the things we believe so that we can stop believing the things that aren’t correct.

I’m not right about everything. I know that.

This week, Sean McAdam (60 – Bonds, Clemens, Halladay, Andruw, Edgar, Mussina, Mariano, and Schilling) wrote the following:

“I’ve also come to abhor the notion of “scoring” which ballots are good and which aren’t. As statistically-based as the voting process is, the act of determining those Hall of Fame-worthy is an entirely subjective process. There are no “good” or “bad” ballots; there are only ones with which you agree or disagree.”

In many years living in and around Boston, I came to appreciate McAdam as a fair voice, often a voice of reason, which isn’t too common in any sports scene’s talking-head-o-sphere. So when I read those words of his, I was forced to think.

McAdam’s Right

I am willing to admit that McAdam is being entirely fair when he implies that guys like me are or can be, essentially, jerks. I’m not in the rest of my life, I don’t believe, but that’s the hat I wear when reviewing Hall of Fame ballots.

The world today is very different than it was 20 years ago. If I had a beef with someone’s Hall of Fame ballot back then – and I did – I’d write about it in a long screed of an email to Eric – and I did. Today, that screed is available for the whole world to see.

I think there’s a difference between sharing on a blog and writing to someone to tell him or her how awful their choices are. Right?

BABIP Law Offices

A Parks and Rec law office. Tremendous!

One of my favorite Twitter follows is @KenTremendous. That’s the penname of Michael Schur, co-creator of Parks and Recreation, among many other things in television. I follow him because he’s a big baseball fan whose takes I enjoy. Recently, there was a Twitter conversation about sharing with celebrities how much you think their work sucks. I don’t want to go into much depth here, but Schur’s take, with which I agree, is that there’s no reason to do so. I would never write to McAdam to tell him that his ballot just barely passes. First, who the heck am I? Second, what makes me think he should care about my opinion? Third, that’s just mean.

McAdam is correct to abhor ballot grading if we take Schur’s thoughts just one step further. Maybe two. If you shouldn’t tell a celebrity (or BBWAA member) how much their work sucks, you probably shouldn’t tell the friend of a celebrity that same thing. McAdam is a “celebrity” in this regard, and he likely has many friends in the BBWAA. Thus, since I’d never write to McAdam to tell him that he did a poor job, I also shouldn’t write to him to tell him that someone else did a poor job. No, I’m not doing that. Not exactly. But I am putting those thoughts out there for everyone to see. While I don’t suspect McAdam has seen this blog, there’s no doubt he’s seen the work of others, and I suspect he’s been hurt by some of it.

There was a time when personal opinions were personal. Today, they’re sometimes very public. I can understand why McAdam might think my Friday work is akin to tweeting @KenTremendous how awful Brooklyn Nine-Nine is (I actually think it’s a really smart show).

Unlike some, I don’t think McAdam or others who are bothered by ballot grading need to toughen up or anything like that. Being upset when someone insults you or your friends makes perfect sense to me.

If you’re reading this, Sean, I am sorry if I have hurt your feelings.

No, I Won’t Stop Grading Ballots

It’s dichotomous at best, and hypocritical at worst, to believe McAdam is right to abhor scoring ballots and still to do it.

Three reasons I won’t stop. First, despite more than 32,000 hits at the HoME last year (thank you!), we’re still extremely small. Basically inconsequential. Second, while I am genuinely sorry if I hurt McAdam’s feelings, I would not be sorry in all cases. McAdam, from what I know, tries to do the right thing. I do not believe the same about all of his colleagues. Finally, I enjoy doing what I do every Friday. It serves as an outlet for the anger I feel when seeing what I believe to be “bad” ballots.

McAdam’s Also Wrong

While I understand and might even agree with McAdam’s distaste for ballot grading, I disagree with his assertions that this process is “entirely subjective” and that there are no “good” or “bad” ballots.

The process isn’t entirely subjective. If it were, writers would only talk about the beauty of Omar Vizquel at shortstop, which is subjective. They’d never mention his 2,877 hits or the 11 Gold Gloves he was awarded, which are objective facts. Clearly the process isn’t entirely subjective. At most, it’s partly subjective.

Also, there are bad ballots. Here are some examples:

  • A homer ballot: If McAdam’s ballot included Red Sox Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, Billy Wagner, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Lowe, Jason Bay, and Darren Oliver, he’s not working to get the best players into the Hall. I feel comfortable saying that’s a bad thing to do.
  • An alphabetical ballot: Voting for Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Lance Berkman, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Travis Hafner, Roy Halladay, and Todd Helton is bad too. The reason is because the person with that ballot isn’t trying to get the best players in the Hall.
  • A Polanco ballot: This is a bad ballot, one where the writer votes for only Placido Polanco. What such a ballot means is not just that you think Placido Polanco belongs in the Hall of Fame (which is incorrect, though less so than most believe), but it also means you believe Polanco is better than all other players on the ballot. That’s just absurd. Even if you dump Martinez because he was a DH, Rivera because he was a closer, Schilling because he’s a tool, Walker and Helton because of Coors, and Bonds, Clemens, Ramirez, Pettitte, Sheffield, Sosa, and Tejada because of PED use/speculation, you still have Mussina, Rolen, Halladay, Jones, and others who were clearly better players than Polanco.

Can all agree that those three are examples of bad ballots?

I suspect even McAdam would agree.

Trying to Keep Learning

There’s little that bothers me more than writers who pooh-pooh the analytics community for asserting that there are statistics more valuable than wins, hits, and Gold Gloves (or something like that). When they do so, it means they’ve chosen to stop learning. Though not as egregious, choosing not to question your own assumptions, suggests to me that one has stopped learning.

When I talk about this with students, I use the tooth fairy as an example. I ask a student if he or she believed in the tooth fairy 15 years ago. They giggle and say they did. Then I ask if they still believe in the tooth fairy. After they answer, I tell them I’m about to say something that might sound harsh. If they still, at age 19, believe everything they believed when they were 4, they might be an idiot. That usually gets some laughs. Students agree. Then I get to the real lesson, which I admit falls flat for most. I tell them that when they’re 34, if they believe everything they believe today, they’re probably an idiot. And when they’re 49, if they believe everything they did when they were 34, they’re probably an idiot. The lesson is that we don’t know everything today, that we need to keep thinking and learning. I try to do that every day.

So let me question one of my assumptions here – the assumption that a ballot containing fewer than ten names is flawed.

I believe there are 15 qualified players on this ballot: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Manny Ramirez, Mariano Rivera, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, and Larry Walker. Further, I think those who advocate for Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, and Billy Wagner are quite reasonable. That’s 19 guys. If you can’t find 10 in those 19, I believe you are making a mistake. At least I did six weeks ago when I constructed this system. Let’s start with 19 and work our way down.

  • A reasonable person could leave Berkman, Oswalt, Pettitte, and Wagner off their ballots. After all, I would. We’re down to 15.
  • A reasonable person could reject Manny Ramirez because he cheated. I will not assert that someone cheated if they didn’t fail a test during the time that PEDs were banned in MLB through collective bargaining. Before that time, it was akin to the wild west – Brown-Séquard elixir, extract from sheep testicles, greenies, anabolic steroids – I don’t consider myself fit to judge who did what, let alone who didn’t. Anyway, we’re down to 14.
  • A reasonable person could have Kent, Sheffield, and Sosa on the wrong side of the in/out line. That leaves only 11 players. Let’s move the other way now.
  • There are 70 pitchers in the Hall of Fame. MAPES+ says that each of Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Roy Halladay, and Mariano Rivera is within the top-44 ever. I think it’s unreasonable to leave any of them off your ballot. That’s four.
  • I believe it is unreasonable to leave Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens off your ballot too. To be brief, it was not until 2005 that MLB could dole out any punishment for PED use. Bonds and Clemens both played in 2005-2007, and neither failed a test for performance enhancing drugs. I don’t count what Ruth tried to do, what Mays and Aaron might have done, or what Bonds, Clemens, or anyone else likely did prior to 2005 testing. They all did or tried to do something, which wasn’t banned, to enhance their performance. (Don’t give me the entirely unenforceable memo sent by Fay Vincent in the summer of 1991. He had the same authority to make that decree that you and I did – absolutely none). In short, Bonds and Clemens were deserving of induction after the 2004 season, and neither one failed a test after 2004. We’re up to six players who must be on your ballots.
  • I rank Todd Helton better than eleven Hall first basemen, Edgar Martinez better than six Hall third basemen at an underrepresented position, and Larry Walker better than sixteen Hall right fielders. Those three simply have to be in, bringing us to nine.
  • We have just Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen remaining. Given that more of his value comes from offense, I prefer Rolen by a bit, though he leads only four Hall third basemen. Jones leads eight Hall center fielders. You have to be able to write one of those names.

Okay, I thought it through. I’m okay with the penalty I give when grading, though I’m a lot less confident than I was six weeks ago, and I’m a lot less justified in my opinion than I was a year ago when the ballot was more crowded than it is today.

Will I have the same rule next year? Well, that depends who’s on the ballot. I’m almost 100% sure the following players will appear: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, and Derek Jeter. Pettitte and Wagner will be back too. They’ll be joined by Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, and Cliff Lee. With only those guys on the ballot, I see just six to eight no-brainer candidates. If Mussina doesn’t make it this year, that’s one more. So no, I don’t think I’ll have the same grading criterion next season. Of course, my disposition may change on Pettitte or Abreu or some of those for whom I think extremely reasonable voters could find fault. I’ll let you know in November or December.

For now, I’m happy McAdam’s words propelled me to reconsider one of my positions. I remain apologetic if my words hurt him or any of his colleagues who actually work to do well. And I hope that I’ve convinced you that while I am angry, I am not only angry.

Come back on Friday for some more ballot anger. Sorry, Mr. McAdam.

Miller

2018 HoME Update, Active Catchers

Welcome to the beginning of our off-season player updates where we let you know how active players stack up on our all-time lists, update you on their seasonal progress, and make some predictions about how they’ll fare moving forward. Each installment will look at a different position (pitchers may take a bit since we both have a post-season factor in their rankings). It all gets started today with the catchers. First base and second base come later this week.

Joe Mauer
2018 BBREF WAR:
1.2

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
13
Ahead of Joe Torre, Roy Campanella, and Thurman Munson
Trailing Charlie Bennett, Gabby Hartnett and Bill Dickey

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
13
Ahead of Roger Bresnahan, Wally Schang, and Thurman Munson
Trailing Joe Torre, Gabby Hartnett, and Charlie Bennett

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
It seems like Joe Mauer might choose retirement, which wouldn’t seem like a terrible thing for the Twins on the field. Still, it would be a real hit to the team’s soul. Were he to return and have the same season he did this year, he still wouldn’t catch Joe Torre. He’s likely locked into the #13 spot either until Buster Posey catches him or for many years after that.

HoME Outlook:
He’s in the first moment he’s eligible. Same with the Hall, I imagine.

Buster Posey
2018 BBREF WAR:
2.9

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
22
Ahead of Tony Pena, Ernie Lombardi, and Jorge Posada
Trailing Jim Sundberg, Gene Tenace, and Roger Bresnahan

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
20
Ahead of Gene Tenace, Bill Freehan, and Jim Sundberg
Trailing Ernie Lombardi, Ted Simmons, and Roy Campanella

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
While 2018 wasn’t a great year, that may have had more to do with health than age. Of course, the two can go hand-in-hand. The 2012 MVP continues to get some rest at first base, which we might see more of going forward. Mauer stopped being a great player after 30. Might the same be true of Posey? If he repeats his 2018 in 2019, he’ll pass Lombardi. If he has five more seasons exactly like Mauer’s last five, he’ll pass Bresnahan for 14th in history, one spot behind Mauer. I think he might do a little better, but the gap between Bres and Mauer is great enough that even with seasons of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 WAR to close out his career, Posey will still trail Mauer. I say he finishes at #14

HoME Outlook:
At #14, he’s a sure thing. In fact, for me he’s already in. I think Eric would require another solid season.

Russell Martin
2018 BBREF WAR:
1.3

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
26
Ahead of Bill Freehan, Jason Kendall, and Jack Rowe
Trailing Jorge Posada, Ernie Lombardi, and Tony Pena

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
25
Ahead of Jason Kendall, Jack Clements, and Yadier Molina
Trailing Jorge Posada, Jim Sundberg, and Bill Freehan

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Despite a batting average south of the Mendoza line, Martin’s elite walk rate suggests he can still play. On the other hand, he hasn’t had a season worth even 2 WAR since 2015. The Jays are going to pay him about $200K per game next year hoping he rebounds. Another year like 2018 gets him nowhere. Three more like last year, through his age-38 season, get him to #23, still trailing Bill Freehan.

HoME Outlook:
Martin may well be a difficult call. Eric already has him ranked ahead of HoMEr Bill Freehan. But I think Freehan may have been a bit of an error on our part. Maybe. In any case, Martin has a shot. Seasons of 3, 2, and 1 WAR would get him to 100.28 MAPES+, a shade over the theoretical in/out line. I don’t think he’ll get there, but it wouldn’t be a total shock. There are eight catchers ever who were Martin’s age to total the 6 WAR he needs to reach 100 MAPES+. He’s no Carlton Fisk or Gabby Hartnett, the only two catchers with double figure WAR from 36 on. But Wally Schang, Bob Boone, Chief Zimmer, Ernie Lombardi, Deacon McGuire, and Walker Cooper may be more reasonable comps. Let’s say he gets there. I’m still not sure he gets a HoME vote. And if he doesn’t, he still may. In other words, I don’t know. Catchers are tough. Understanding handling is tougher. Deciding how many catchers should be in the HoME isn’t easy either. It should be an interesting case.

Yadier Molina
2018 BBREF WAR:
1.8

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
34
Ahead of Smoky Burgess, Deacon McGuire, and Duke Farrell
Trailing Mike Scioscia, Lance Parrish, and Jack Clements

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
28
Ahead of Lance Parrish, Darrell Porter, and Johnny Kling
Trailing Jack Clements, Jason Kendall, and Russell Martin

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
He’ll be 36 next year and is signed for two more campaigns. He’s at the end of his career, though he generally remains healthy. But a healthy Yadi isn’t better than a 2-win player any longer. If we give him two more seasons like his last two, he doesn’t reach Russell Martin’s current level.

HoME Outlook:
He’s not so close by MAPES+. He’s even further away by CHEWS+. I suspect it’ll be a down vote by both of us, and I’ll write an angry post or ten about the use of narrative to elevate Molina to an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer in the eyes of many.

Brian McCann
2018 BBREF WAR:
1.0

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
45
Ahead of Andy Seminick, Victor Martinez, and Jocko Milligan
Trailing Chief Zimmer, Sherm Lollar, and Cal McVey

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
42
Ahead of Elston Howard, Victor Martinez, and Rick Ferrell
Trailing Ray Schalk, Mike Scioscia, and Cal McVey

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Over the last three years it’s been a shade under 1.5 WAR on average. He’ll be 35 next year, and the Astros have a team option for $15 million. I don’t think Houston will pick it up, but I’m confident he’ll have a job next year. After all, a bunch of catchers on this list are free agents about his age with about his level of production. What I don’t expect is that a guy whose WAA has been below zero since he turned 30 to suddenly turn it around at 35.

HoME Outlook:
Things once looked pretty good for him. There were only 15 catchers who topped McCann in WAR through age-26. And of those, only Johnny Bench, Joe Torre, and Gary Carter hit more homers. Needless to say, McCann hasn’t aged quite so well. He’s not going to make it unless there’s a late-career renaissance the likes of which we’ve almost never seen.

Victor Martinez
2018 BBREF WAR:
-1.2

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
47
Ahead of Jocko Milligan, Rick Ferrell, and John Clapp
Trailing Andy Seminick, Brian McCann, and Chief Zimmer

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
44
Ahead of Rick Ferrell, Chief Meyers, and John Clapp
Trailing Elston Howard, Brian McCann, and Ray Schalk

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
His trajectory is retired. Over the last four years, he’s moved backwards on the all-time list, down three spots. Retirement is the right choice.

HoME Outlook:
He won’t be going.

Salvador Perez
2018 BBREF WAR:
2.4

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
80
Ahead of Darren Daulton, Heinie Peitz, and Brad Ausmus
Trailing Hank Gowdy, Gus Triandos, and Bob O’Farrell

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
77
Ahead of Muddy Ruel, Heinie Peitz, and Earl Battey
Trailing Frankie Hayes, Carlos Ruiz, and Bob O’Farrell

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Unlike most guys on this list, he was good in 2018. Only Buster Posey topped his BBREF WAR among catchers we chart. Plus, he’s only 29, he’s generally healthy, and DRA likes his defense more than Rfield does. There are only 20 catchers ever with a greater WAR total through age 28, all the usual suspects plus Butch Wynegar, Lance Parrish, Ray Schalk, Fred Carroll, and Jason Kendall. He’s going to need a 5-win season or two pretty soon, something I’m not sure he can do. But if he does…

HoME Outlook:
It’s not looking great, though it’s not looking so bad either. There are only four catchers in history with a greater WAR total through age-28 who are neither in the Hall nor HoME, none ahead by more than 1.5. I’m not betting on him, but it might be fun to watch.

Jonathan Lucroy
2018 BBREF WAR:
-0.7

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
99
Ahead of Bo Diaz, Hank Severeid, and Harry Danning
Trailing Ron Hassey, Bubbles Hargrave, and Joe Ferguson

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
88
Ahead of Ramon Hernandez, Johnny Edwards, and Joe Ferguson
Trailing Hank Gowdy, Frank Snyder, and Paul Lo Duca

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Over the last two years, he’s posted negative WAR. And since his career year in 2014, he’s been worth only 1.2 WAR per season. He’s a free agent and will be 33 next year. Maybe he has another year like 2016 left in him. If so, and if he gradually declines from there, he’ll get into the top-60. However, I don’t think he’s going to get there. What’s more likely is jumping about 10-15 spots before retirement.

HoME Outlook:
After 2014 it looked like he might have been able to put together a run. Now it’s certain he won’t.

Kurt Suzuki
2018 BBREF WAR:
2.1

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
114
Ahead of Steve Yeager, Shanty Hogan, and Joe Azcue
Trailing Babe Phelps, Chris Iannetta, and Andy Etchebarren

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
96
Ahead of George Gibson, Charles Johnson, and Matt Wieters
Trailing Mike Stanley, John Stearns, and Brad Ausmus

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Playing a little less, it seems Suzuki has become a bit of a better hitter in the last couple of years. A free agent, he’ll be 35 next year and is sure to be signed, probably by a team dubious about the value of catcher framing. If he plays two more years, declining by 0.7 WAR each time, just as he did between 2017 and 2018, he’ll move up to #87. I’ll take the under.

HoME Outlook:
He might reach the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame. Lenn Sakata and Mike Lum are in, and he’s been a clearly player than either.

Matt Wieters
2018 BBREF WAR:
0.6

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
120
Ahead of Stan Lopata, Mike Lavalliere, and Mike MacFarlane
Trailing Ernie Whitt, Alan Ashby, and Joe Azcue

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
99
Ahead of Ivey Wingo, Jody Davis, and Phil Masi
Trailing Chrales Johnson, George Gibson, and Kurt Suzuki

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
I don’t know if it’s true that stud prospects that never turn into studs have nice long and low careers, but it sometimes feels that way. Wieters is dragging though, reaching one WAR only once in his last five campaigns. He’s a free agent, and since he’s just 33 next year, I suspect he’ll sign another deal. Still, it’s not like he can move up too far.

HoME Outlook:
A decade ago there was hope. No more.

Chris Iannetta
2018 BBREF WAR:
-0.4

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
112
Ahead of Babe Phelps, Kurt Suzuki, and Steve Yeager
Trailing Andy Etchebarren, Art Wilson, and Jim Pagliaroni

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
114
Ahead of Ron Hassey, Bo Diaz, and Rick Wilkins
Trailing Terry Kennedy, Jerry Grote, and Steve Yeager

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
He’s signed for next season and even has a 2020 option. In other words, even if he’s done, he’s not done. He’s only been worth a win in one of the last four seasons and is going to retire somewhere outside the top-100.

HoME Outlook:
He’s neither young nor good. It’s not happening.

Alex Avila
2018 BBREF WAR:
0.0

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
132
Ahead of Don Slaught, Mike Lieberthal, and Doug Allison
Trailing Earl Smith, Gregg Zaun, and Ron Karkovice

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
125
Ahead of Earl Smith, Ron Karkovice, and Milt May
Trailing Mike LaValliere, Joe Azcue, and Pop Snyder

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Catchers can sometimes age well as part-timers. Of course, Avila has only played 316 games in the last four seasons, so he’s already been a part-timer who’s not aging well. Even with three more seasons of 2 WAR, he won’t reach the top-100.

HoME Outlook:
Didn’t his dad trade him a couple of years ago? When your dad gives up on you, there’s not much more to say.

On Wednesday, we’ll take a look first base.

Miller

NL Mount Rushmore, 2018 Update

So, I know what you must be thinking. Miller, you’ve been gone for months, and when you come back you do so with one of the least popular series in HoME history. Well, yeah. At least for me this is a really fun series. And I can use the NL and AL updates that come today and Friday to preview the post-season active player updates that will follow. No, we’re not officially back, but there is going to be some content in the coming weeks, including complete CHEWS+ and MAPES+ lists at every position, lists that will be archived on the site for your future reference.

But first, each National League team’s updated Mount Rushmore. If you don’t happen to recall, this isn’t about the four best players in a team’s history. Rather, it’s about the four best players in history that have never played for another team. So Ty Cobb isn’t on the Tiger list, and Willie Mays isn’t on the Giant list. Here we go!

Arizona

  • Paul Goldschmidt (40.1 WAR) isn’t leaving this list until he leaves Arizona or long after he retires. He’s signed for next year, but then the D’backs will have a decision to make. Do they give the cornerstone of their franchise a long-term deal starting at age-32, or do they part company? Goldschmidt is building a Hall of Fame career, so I hope Arizona resigns him.
  • Brandon Webb (31.4) is locked too.
  • Next on the mountain is A.J. Pollack (20.0), a pretty interesting player. His 2015 season made him one of only four players, joining Jacoby Ellsbury, Hanley Ramirez, and Cesar Cedeno with 39 2B, 39 SB, 20 HR, and fewer than 100 K in baseball history. He’s been injured a lot, but he’s been great when healthy. He leaves the Diamondback Rushmore only if he leaves the team. He’s not getting caught from behind for at least a few seasons.
  • We have a change in the fourth spot. Last hear it was David Peralta, the lefty corner outfielder who just has his first 30 homer season. It was also his best season at 3.9 WAR. Unfortunately for him, Patrick Corbin (12.5) caught him from behind with a very impressive 4.8 WAR this season. Peralta is signed for another couple of seasons while Corbin could leave this winter, so there might be another change on the Diamondback Rushmore next year.

Atlanta

  • Chipper Jones (85.0) is far and away tops here.
  • After another outstanding season, Freddie Freeman (33.1) remains in second place. I just mentioned Paul Goldschmidt as someone on a Hall of Fame trajectory. Same with Freeman who is three years younger and could certainly join the fight if he keeps up his pace. As for Rushmore status, he’s signed for an extra couple of seasons, so he’s going to be here for a while.
  • The Braves have had quite a long history, dating back to their 1876 Boston Red Stockings days. Yet, Julio Teheran (17.7) is third on their list.
  • Perhaps more amazingly, Rick Camp (12.3) is fourth.

Chicago

  • Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks (67.4), leads the way. Who else?
  • Stan Hack (52.5) is second and only 14.9 WAR behind Banks. It doesn’t feel that close, does it?
  • Charlie Hollocher (23.2) is third. You might not have heard of him. He played for the Cubs from 1918-1924. He apparently left the team in 1923 due to depression, tried to come back in 1924, but couldn’t. I wonder how many major leaguers have suffered from depression. For those looking for a silver lining in these difficult political times, it’s that in many places in this country, those who suffer from depression can come forward in ways not available 100 or even 10 years ago. That’s progress.
  • Much to my surprise, the fourth spot remains held down by Bill Lange (22.9). That’s because Kris Bryant played only 102 so-so games and posted just 1.9 WAR on the season. He should bounce Lange off and Hollocher to third next year.

Cincinnati

  • Johnny Bench (75.0) leads the way.
  • Barry Larkin (70.2) backs him up.
  • Until Joey Votto (58.8) goes away or passes Larkin, this is his spot.
  • Bid McPhee (52.4) is fourth.
  • Davey Concepcion is waiting in the wings should Votto depart the Queen City.

Colorado

  • Todd Helton (61.2) sits atop this list, while the rest of it will be in flux for some time pending strong seasons, trades, and free agency.
  • Nolan Arenado continued to add to his Hall campaign with another outstanding season and sits second at (33.1).
  • The same cannot be said of Charlie Blackmon (16.1) whose contribution in 2018 was less than one win. He may need to do better than that because there are two very impressive players within a very good season of catching him.
  • For now, it’s Kyle Freeland (11.5) who occupies the fourth spot on this list. Those of us on the east coast who know plenty about Jake deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Aaron Nola should tune into the awesome season Freeland had. Sure, it might only be the fourth best by an NL pitcher this year, but it deserves more celebration than it seems to have received. Too bad his Rockies were bounced from the playoffs so quickly. Of course, Freeland was awesome the one time he took the ball.
  • Right behind Freeland is last year’s fourth guy, Trevor Story, just a tenth of a win short. It’ll be interesting to see what the next few seasons bring for this pair and for the Rockies.

Los Angeles

  • Don Drysdale (67.2) starts us off.
  • Pee Wee Reese (66.4) follows.
  • When the season began, there was just one question pertaining to the Dodger Rushmore: Where would Clayton Kershaw (64.6) land when the season ended? He needed 2.2 WAR to pass Jackie Robinson for third place, 7.1 to slide past Pee Wee Reese into second, and 7.9 to take the #1 spot from Don Drysdale. With 4.0, he lands in third. Sandy Koufax takes his place if he departs. Among current Dodgers, it seems Yasiel Puig (18.6) and Kenley Jansen (15.9) aren’t really threats. It also seems that Kershaw won’t add further seasons to his peak. Still, there’s every reason to believe he’ll top this list one year from now.
  • Jackie Robinson (61.5) is fourth and not going anywhere anytime soon.

Miami

  • What a mess this is. Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcel Ozuna are all gone of last year’s list. Jose Fernandez (14.2) will hang around for a while, possibly forever. By the way, the aforementioned trio, including the clubhouse leader for MVP, Yelich, combined for more WAR last year than this.
  • J.T. Realmuto (13.0) is a perfectly fine player whose WAR has increased every year in the bigs, reaching a high of 4.3 this past season. He’s arbitration eligible for the second time this winter after making $2.9 million in 2018. So maybe he won’t be a Marlin next year?
  • I almost know who Derek Dietrich (4.6) is. On one hand, he’s a mediocre utility guy. On the other, he played nearly every day in 2018 on his way to 0.4 WAR. As long as he remains on the Marlin Rushmore, it’ll be clear this franchise is without hope.
  • On the other hand, I know two players named Brian Anderson. However, neither is the Brian Anderson (3.8) who’s on the Marlin Rushmore. He was actually a very useful player in 2018, moving between third base and right field. Still, I don’t think it’s good with the Marlin’s long-term prospects to see him on this façade. Now if we could sub him for the other B.A. in the announce booth, that would likely be an improvement.

Milwaukee

  • Robin Yount (77.0) gets things started.
  • Ryan Braun (46.4) will remain in second until the Brewers buy him out in two seasons (I’m guessing).
  • Next is Teddy Higuera (30.7).
  • Then there’s Jim Gantner (22.3).
  • If Braun were to go elsewhere, moving up will be Dave Nilsson (10.5) unless Zach Davies (5.5) surprises.

New York

  • David Wright (50.4) continues to lead the way. One of my favorite live baseball moments came when I got to see Wright walk and pop out in the final two trips to the plate of his MLB career. Mets fans were great, a full 180 degrees from the reputations of negativity some of them have. It was such a joy to be there, in one of the most positive baseball atmospheres I’ve ever experienced.
  • Next is Jacob deGrom (27.2), who I hope remains healthy (and a Met!) so Mets fans can continue to be happy about something.
  • Noah Syndergaard (13.2) is third.
  • And somehow, amazingly at least to me, Juan Lagares (12.8), who the Mets have never seen as a starter even when he has been, finishes out the Met Rushmore. Is he really still on the team?

Philadelphia

  • We start with Michael Jack Schmidt (106.5), now and forever.
  • Next is Charlie Ferguson (32.1), a guy who spent the 1884-1887 seasons with the Philadelphia Quakers.
  • Aaron Nola (15.5) flies up to third with his incredible 10-win 2018.
  • Ryan Howard (14.9) finishes things off. Remember when MLB General Managers paid big bucks for runs batted in? Howard had 572 of them over four years from 2006-2009.

Pittsburgh

  • Roberto Clemente (94.5) isn’t going anywhere for generations.
  • Willie Stargell (57.5) is set too.
  • With the departure of Andrew McCutchen, Sam Leever (41.3) moves into the third spot.
  • And Bill Mazeroski (36.2) joins the Pirate Rushmore. It seems like there’s a better chance Starling Marte (26.2) prices himself out of Pittsburgh than that he gains enough value to catch Maz.

St. Louis

  • It’s likely that nobody ever touches Stan Musial (128.1).
  • And it’s pretty likely Bob Gibson (89.9) never relinquishes second place.
  • Yadier Molina (38.9) steps into the third spot, which is, perhaps, another nail in the coffin of those who don’t believe he’s deserving of Hall induction.
  • Adam Wainwright (38.2) is the third-best fourth-on-the-façade, behind Jackie Robinson and Bid McPhee.

San Diego

  • Tony Gwynn (68.8) should be called Mr. Padre more than he is.
  • And here’s why. Tim Flannery (9.2) is second. Only four times in his eleven seasons did he play 100 games. He never topped three homers in a season. He was successful in just 50% of his 44 steal attempts. His career Rbat was -44. You get the point.
  • Manuel Margot (4.6) is third. I guess he’s an okay player, but like Flannery, he can’t hit.
  • And for now Hunter Renfroe (3.7) finishes off the Padre Rushmore. At least he’s passable at the dish.

San Francisco

  • Mel Ott (107.8) is very safe.
  • Carl Hubbell (67.5) is too.
  • Bill Terry (54.2) makes it three who are locked in for quite a while.
  • Going into the season, however, Mike Tiernan (42.2) was in jeopardy of losing his spot to Buster Posey. But Posey and his 2.9 WAR on the season couldn’t quite get there. With just one WAR in 2019, he’ll make it.

Washington

  • I don’t know why I’m such a huge fan of Steve Rogers (45.1) topping this list, a list I expect he’ll continue to top for years to come.
  • Ryan Zimmerman (38.0) certainly doesn’t have enough left in him to topple the 158-game winner.
  • The first day of the 2019 campaign should be the last day Bryce Harper (27.4) is on this list.
  • Stephen Strasburg (27.3) continues to chug along, but he can opt out after next year. It’ll be interesting to see if he leaves four years and $100 million on the table.

Well, that’s it for the National League. The updated American League Rushmore will post on Friday.

Miller

Out at HoME?

Hi all,

After more than five years of content three days per week, Eric and I have decided to call it quits at the HoME, at least for the time being. We would like to thank all of those who have read our work, provided feedback that improved our knowledge, or shared our posts with friends.

It’s not like something major has happened. Eric hasn’t gotten a job getting paid to do this – one that he absolutely deserves. I haven’t given up on the dream of Rick Reuschel getting into the Hall. Even if we never share another post, we will always treasure the five years we’ve spent on the Hall of Miller and Eric.

The good news? The site will remain live, so you’ll continue to have access to about 1,000 posts.

Thank you again for all of your support.

Miller

All-Time HoME Leaders, Pitcher – 1-20

Relief pitching is valuable. Relief pitchers, no so much.

Strange way to begin a post about the best pitchers of all-time since clearly none of the top-20 are relievers. But I’m reminding you of this maxim both to preview our six pitching posts (we’ll get through the top-120) and to make a point.

Eric and I have some fundamental differences on how we rank pitchers. Eric applies a correction, essentially, for what he calls the Schoenfield Paradox. Named for ESPN writer David Schoenfield, the Schoenfield Paradox is the idea that it’s easier to stand out from your peers when there are fewer great players in the league. By reading Schoenfield’s post and then Eric’s, you’ll understand my point much more clearly. I’ll wait.

Okay then. Let me generalize a bit. Eric and I look at the old timey pitchers differently. He sees guys who didn’t outperform their peers by an incredible amount. And he’s right. What I see is hurlers who pitched a larger percentage of their team’s innings than at any other time in history. Those innings have value – in the same way that the lack of innings for closers mean they don’t have much value.

I might run into trouble in ten or twenty years when we go to elect pitchers of today’s era. Will they have enough innings to accumulate the value needed to get into the HoME? I fear they won’t. Luckily, there’s a lot of time to debate and learn until then.

Enjoy the six pitcher posts in the series! And check out all of our rankings below.

[MAPES+], [CHEWS+], [1B, 1-20], [1B, 21-40], [2B, 1-20], [2B, 21-40], [3B, 1-20], [3B, 21-40], [SS, 1-20], [SS, 21-40], [C, 1-20], [C, 21-40], [LF, 1-20], [LF, 21-40], [CF, 1-20], [CF, 21-40], [RF, 1-20], [RF, 21-40]

Pitcher – 1-20

P, 1-20

Why are there no active pitchers in the top-20?

There are two reasons. First, given that there are so many more pitchers than players at any other position on the diamond, it’s harder to reach the top-20. Second, Clayton Kershaw just turned 30 (and is injured frequently enough that he may never make it).—Miller

Kershaw is in the low thirties in my rankings. He’s the highest active or recently retired pitcher on this list. Pitchers just don’t throw many innings, something like ten to thirty percent fewer than the generation that included Clemens, Maddux, and Glavine. That’s it in a nutshell. But let’s poke at this a sec.

This year, Kevin Cash made the theoretical leap. He started Sergio Romo to get through the first inning or two and then turned it over to…a starting pitcher who would go twice through the lineup and would, in turn, hand it over to the late-inning relievers. This is an utterly brilliant tactic. The first inning is the highest scoring, the only inning where the offense gets to determine its sequence of hitters and stack their best bats at the top of the lineup. Combine that with the fact that most pitchers get creamed their third time through the batting order, and it’s a readymade bullpen situation. That is, if a team is willing to see the tactical opportunity and think outside the traditional starter/reliever box. My golly who would get the win???

But in terms of the question at hand, that theoretical leap may be the beginning of the end of the normative model of starting pitching. We have arrived at a point where there are three kinds of pitchers: Excellent starters who can get through a lineup three times; pitchers who can get through it twice most days; and relievers. Well, the second group is why relief pitching in the first inning is a great idea. Depending on a team’s depth, anyone from your number two starter through your number five will fall into that second group. Most relievers are fungible. So that just leaves our excellent starters. Maybe they number thirty or forty? Then again, with injuries and attrition how can you know? But they are fast becoming the focus guys on a pitching staff. Not just the best pitchers on the staff, but ones who need to go seven innings to keep the bullpen from getting too worn out. With thirteen-man staffs, this model may work with lots of roster manipulation to get fresh arms into the backend of the bullpen. But it will place an awful lot of pressure on the top-end starter, and, I suspect lead to much higher season-to-season variance in team performance.

Or I could be completely wrong about this….—Eric

Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?

Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax. More on them later.—Eric

I’ve talked about Rick Reuschel possibly being the most underrated player in baseball history. What about Phil Niekro? It’s hard to think of someone in the Hall of Fame as underrated, but Niekro is for a ton of reasons. He threw a gimmick pitch. He played for terrible teams. He wasn’t good as a young player. He led the league in losses four years in a row when people really cared about losses. And he pitched during the glory days of National League pitching. But do you know who had the most pitching war in all of baseball for the 69 years from 1929-1997? Well, that, my friends, was Tom Seaver. Yeah, Seaver was better than Niekro. But nobody else was. Yes, my start and end points are artificial. Add 1928, and Lefty Grove was better too. Add 1998, and you have Roger Clemens ahead of Niekro. Still, think about this for a second, Phil Niekro had the second most pitching WAR in the game for 69 years. It doesn’t matter that I’m manipulating the start and end dates. That stat is amazing.—Miller

Where do we disagree with one another the most?

Not in the top-20 since we have the exact same 20 guys, but the disagreements are coming.—Miller

As noted by Miller above, the biggest disagreement we have lies in our disposition toward older pitchers. I have never felt comfortable comparing contemporary pitchers to those from times when 300 innings were either a partial season, the norm, the norm for a quality pitcher, or a total achieved by the very best pitchers. The last time someone threw 300 innings in MLB, Barry Bonds was in high school, Anwar Sadat was alive, the White House still had solar panels, and the most a wristwatch could do was multiply and divide. No pitcher since the 1980s has thrown 280 innings. The last time someone rung up even 250 innings was in 2011 (Justin Verlander, 251). Nary a pitcher has reached 240 since 2014 when David Price and Johnny Cueto turned the trick.

On the other side of the coin, in 1884, Pud Galvin established the never-to-be-broken record of 20.5 WAR in a single season. Tossing 636 innings helps. 20.5 pitching WAR is about three times what our best pitchers this year will earn. Pitchers across history have racked up “just” ten WAR 118 times. Only 51 of those season came after 1901. Only twenty of them came after integration. Only nine since the adoption of the DH. Only four since 2000. Just one since 2002. In my mind, comparing Zack Grienke’s 10.4 WAR in 2009 to the 10.5 that Jim McCormick picked up in 1880 does not compute. A supermajorty of Grienke’s value in 2009 was marginal: 8.3 WAA and 10.4 WAR. Less than 50% of McCormick’s value lay above average.

My solution is to retain pitchers’ value above average and debit their value between replacement and average to resemble contemporary pitchers. It is not, shall we say, theoretically sound, but it produces reasonable results that I can comprehend. And, as we’ll see soon, it pushes Miller and I apart on several important candidates.—Eric

Just to be clear here, in my opinion, there’s nothing at all wrong with Eric’s direction (nor mine, I hope).—Miller

Are there any players who MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate? 

Having just explained a bit about how I look at pitchers, yes, my method may insert some instability into the system. Especially because I use a rate-based component to dole out bonuses. This probably puts two groups to the advantage. Modern starters whose value is more concentrated into fewer innings may benefit a bit. So too might the olde tyme guys. Even though I adjust their innings, I keep so much of their WAA that they get a little boost by the change in the resultant change in denominator.—Eric

Bias is a funny thing. I really want to find an angle to show that Phil Niekro isn’t one of the 13-14 best pitchers ever. Maybe he isn’t. I think, for example, if we needed just one start from a pitcher of the era, most would take Steve Carlton over Niekro. Also, Knucksie’s lack of October experience could drop him behind a guy or three. But man, it’s a sad commentary when I want to trust my gut more than my system. It’s also possible we overrate Gaylord Perry some. As just the fifth best pitcher of his era, perhaps he’s not the 18th or 19th best ever. Is Pedro Martinez, the fourth best pitcher of his era, the 9th or 12th best ever? And where would Clemens have been if his game weren’t chemically enhanced for its last 43% (just my entirely unsubstantiated opinion and that of a hater)?

***

Stop by a week from today for pitchers 21-40.

Walter Johnson and the Best Pitchers of the 1910s

Walter Johnson, 1910There are only three pitchers who have any legitimate claim as the best in baseball history, at least for my money. One is Roger Clemens. In order for you to call him the best ever, you have to adjust quite a bit for era, which is something a reasonable person may choose to do. Clemens pitched at a time of diminishing innings, five-man rotations, and changing expectations. Of course, you may also have to ignore PED allegations to say he’s the best. As someone who hardly adjusts for era, I couldn’t call Roger the best ever. Nor could I give that title to Satchel Paige. Oh, he may have been. But even with the incredible work Eric is doing to help us better understand Negro League statistics, there is too much left to legend and guesswork to anoint Satch the best ever.

That leaves one guy.

Jack Morris.

Oh, wait, I’m not an ex-player voting for the Hall of Fame using only selected memories.

That leaves one guy.

Walter Johnson.

Walter Johnson was the Babe Ruth of pitchers. He was the Willie Mays of pitchers. He was the Mike Trout of pitchers. Hell, he was the Cy Young of pitchers. Just in terms of straight pitching WAR, he was over 10 on six occasions. Since 1910, he’s had the best season on the mound. And the second best. And five of the best 16. So since 1910, there have been 16 seasons of at least 11.2 on the mound. The Big Train had five of them. All other pitchers in the last 118 years had the other 11.

Yeah, Walter Johnson is the best pitcher in baseball history.

The Series

Explanation and 1870s, 1880s, 1890s, 1900s

The Best Pitchers of the 1910s

#10 Wilbur Cooper: To me, Cooper is a borderline HoMEr, though just on the wrong side of the borderline. And he’s my favorite pitcher ever named “Wilbur”, which is saying something in a battle with Wilbur Wood. Cooper was more very solid than great, eight times in the period we’re covering reaching 3.8 WAR on the mound but never topping 7.0. Still, Cooper is an all-time great Pirate, first in wins, second in pitching WAR, and third in strikeouts in the team’s history. Alas, the Pirates never made it to the World Series during Cooper’s time there, instead waiting until the first season he was gone to get there. A fine pitcher, Cooper is worth just 29% of that of our decade leader.

#9 Nap Rucker: It’s a little surprising to see Rucker on this list since his last full season was 1913, though at only 32% of our leader, I guess nothing is too surprising. The lefty’s 134-134 career mark somewhat obscures his talent since his team played at a frighteningly bad .430 rate when he wasn’t on the mound. I think it’s so interesting how team names change. The team for whom Clayton Kershaw has played his whole career was the Brooklyn Dodgers for 47 years. We all know that. But they were the Brooklyn Robins for 18 years before that. And they were the Brooklyn Superbas for 15 years before that, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms for the eleven before that, the Brooklyn Grooms for the previous five, the Brooklyn Gray for the three prior, and the Brooklyn Atlantics in their inaugural campaign of 1884. Ask a Dodger fan what names his/her team has gone by. I’d bet not more than 2% can name them all.

#8 Eddie Plank: We’re taking a guy with 35% of our decade leader a little out of order here. Plank was more of a pitcher of the previous decade, and a great one at that, charting #3 on our list. We drop him one spot here since a little more of his “decade” total than I want is based on his work outside the decade. On the other hand, he did pitch further into the decade than Rucker. At 326 wins without a victory title, I soooo wanted to say that Plank had the most in his career without such a title. But I can’t. Pud Galvin won 46 games in both 1883 and 1884. But Old Hoss Radbourn beat him both years. And Charlie Buffinton beat him in 1884 too. For trivia, we can call him the all-time lefty victory leader until he was passed by Warren Spahn and later Steve Carlton.

#7 Hippo Vaughn: Yes, he was given his nickname for reasons you can imagine. Known most today for a 1917 game in which he and Fred Toney each threw no-hitters, Vaughn was indeed a star, particularly from 1916-1919 when his pitching WAR never fell below 6.5. At just 34% of our decade leader, he was still a great pitcher. The end came quickly for Vaughn though. A 1921 season that saw him post a 6.01 ERA through 17 games ended on July 9 outing. After that, he never again showed up to the team. Read about this story. Fascinating. Odd.

Babe Adams, 1921#6 Babe Adams: Were it not for the four innings tossed for the 1906 Cardinals, Adams would be a member of the HoME’s Pirate Rushmore. As it is, he’s a borderline HoMEr with over 50 career WAR and 36% of our decade’s leader in what I’m calling value. Adams had an interesting career, not really getting going until he was 27, basically getting released because of a bum shoulder, pitching in the minors for two years, and returning to star or quasi-star status from age 37-40. No blurb about Adams is complete without mention of his three complete game victories against the Tigers in the 1909 World Series.

#5 Ed Walsh: At fifth best, he still clocks in at only 39% of our decade leader. Walsh is in the Hall, he was 7th on last decade’s list, and he has the best ERA ever. I should make a resolution for 2019 where I read one SABR Bio Project profile every day. Walsh’s suggests he was somewhat of the pitching equivalent to Keith Hernandez, attacking bunts like a hungry animal might attack a fresh kill.

#4 Eddie Cicotte: You may know Cicotte as the pitcher whose plunking of Morrie Rath to open the 1919 World Series let the conspirators know that the fix was in. He was also one of the greatest pitchers ever. Since the start of the American League, there have been only five better pitchers from age 33-36 in either league. And despite his removal from the game when he was still near his peak, he’s 73rd in career WAR on the mound. At 41% of our decade leader, he’s the only one of our top four who isn’t among the ten best ever to play the game.

#3 Christy Mathewson: Perhaps you could say that Mathewson is to Walter Johnson as Greg Maddux is to Roger Clemens – one of the absolute greatest ever but pretty clearly a shade behind. In this decade he went 2-4 in the World Series with a 1.33 ERA in eight starts. In the previous decade, 1905 specifically, he made three starts, threw three shutouts, and won games 1, 3, and 5 as his Giants beat the A’s in five games. The second best pitcher of the previous decade, Big Six boasts 42% of the value of our decade leader.

#2 Pete Alexander: I love fun trivia! ‘Ol Pete was named for President Grover Cleveland and portrayed by President Ronald Reagan in The Winning Team. Since 1915, Alexander had three seasons of 30 or more wins. All other pitchers in the game did so on only four occasions. He shares the record for most pitching triple crowns (3) with Walter Johnson and Sandy Koufax. And in what was one of the greatest decades by a pitcher ever (one of seven pitchers ever with 100 points by my formula), he’s not quite worth 2/3 of our leader.

#1 Walter Johnson: With apologies to Cy Young’s shortened decade of the 1890s, I have absolutely no trouble saying that Walter Johnson’s 1910s represent the best decade by any pitcher ever. For this decade, I count 100% of WAR from 1910-1919, 90% from 1909 and 1921, 80% from 1908 and 1922, 70% from 1907 and 1923, and 10% of his career mark for reasons I sort of explain here. There are the best seven scores I referred to above:

Player            Decade   Score
Walter Johnson    1910s    151.34
Cy Young          1900s    115.06
Cy Young          1890s    112.48
Roger Clemens     1990s    103.75
Lefty Grove       1930s    102.21
Tom Seaver        1970s    101.50
Pete Alexander    1910s    100.02

Can the Big Train produce another championship in the 1920s? Find out in a week.

Miller

All-Time HoME Leaders, First Base – 21-40

Today we continue through our journey around the diamond listing the best ever to play the game at each position. Well, actually, we’re still at first base. A week ago, we revealed our top-20 at the position, today it’s 21-40, and in a week we’ll name the top-20 second basemen ever. All rankings are based on Eric’s CHEWS+ and my MAPES+ lists. And we won’t stop until we give you the top-40 at every position and the top-120 pitchers.

First Base – 21-40

1B, 21-40

Where do we project the active player to finish in our rankings?

Joey Votto: Eric doesn’t address Votto because he did so last week as the 20th ranked guy on his list. For a player with six OBP titles and almost 55 WAR, Votto is criminally underrated. Unfortunately for him, he’s only hit 30 homers twice and only drive in 100 three times. On the other hand, just looking at straight WAR, he’s never had an 8-win season. But I digress. This question is about where he’ll end up. My adjusted numbers gave him 7.47 WAR a year ago. But he will be 34 this year. Imagine a graceful decline of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 WAR. He’d pass seven guys and move into 17th place on my list. But maybe the decline will be even less pronounced, seeing him fall to 6 WAR this year and then age gracefully. He’s now fighting George Sisler for 10th in history. I’m not saying it’ll happen, but it certainly could. —Miller

Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?

It’s an easy enough call to say that it’s David Ortiz. After all, conventional wisdom says he’s going to waltz into the Hall. But I think nearly 100% of the writers for vote for Papi will do so noting his specialness or clutchiness or Papiness or all three. Ortiz deserves the Hall based a lot more on Fame than on greatness. And if you’re thinking his playoff greatness puts him over the line, well, maybe it does, though I did contribute a meandering post about the incredible amount of value you’d need to give playoff excellence to get the Sox great over the line. —Miller

It would be easy to spotlight old timers like Harry Stovey or Jack Fournier or even Dolph Camilli here. But there’s two guys on this list where I see divergence. First, no one during his career ever thought that John Olerud was a Hall-caliber player. He got attention when he took a run at .400 early in his career. He got some kudos as the slick-scooping glue that held the Mets’ infield defense together in the Piazza era. He was also known for the piano he carried on his back when he ran the bases. But his case for the Hall is actually pretty damned good thanks to a combination of good hitting and excellent fielding. Then there’s Harm Killebrew. The 500 homers pretty much starts and ends the conversation on him, and, ipso facto, he’s a Hall of Famer. Well, he was an abysmal fielder, a bad baserunner, and hit into a lot of double plays. The entire package isn’t nearly as good as the gaudy homer figures would indicate, and if you only stop at 573, you won’t agree with us.—Eric

Where do we disagree with one another the most?

Nothing to see here. There’s no meaningful disagreement.

Are there any players that MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate? 

 In this group, not especially. So I’d like to take just a moment to talk about how a team might have underrated a player. In 1967, the Reds moved Tony Perez to third base. He’d never played an MLB inning at the hot corner, but during his minor league apprenticeship, he’d played a vast majority of his games there. Arriving in Cincy in 1964, Perez played nothing but first base for three years, and he was slightly below average (-3 runs) in 174 games. The Reds realigned their infield for ’67, moving Perez off first base, pushing incumbent Tommy Helms to second base, putting Pete Rose to pasture in left field, and putting defensively inept left fielder Deron Johnson at first base where he could do less damage (and they were right). In 1966, these players combined for -24 runs. In 1967 they combined for -10. Bob Howsam and Dave Bristol saved themselves at least a win’s worth of runs just by putting their players where their skills made the most sense. Perez was the weakest link at -9 runs in 1967, but over the next four years, he accumulated positive value at third base.

Prior to the 1972 season, the Reds acquired infielder Denis Menke who had at one time played a decent shortstop, but whose glove faltered badly. He could hit a little, and the Reds picked him up in one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history.

November 29, 1971: The Houston Astros trade Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke, and Joe Morgan to the Cincinnati Reds for Tommy Helms, Lee May, and Jimmy Stewart.

Morgan alone brought back 58 WAR, with Geronimo returning 13, Menke 4, Billingham 2, and Armbrister none. For their efforts, the Astros got 4 wins from Helms, though they later flipped him for Art Howe who earned 13 WAR with the ‘Stros; 6 from Lee May who they later made part of a trade for Enos Cabell and Rob Andrews; and -1 from Stewart whom they later cut.

For Perez’s part, however, the departure of May and Helms opened holes at first base and second base. Morgan, of course, would man the keystone sack. Who would play first base? They had options on hand. Obviously Perez had played there previously and was fine. Menke might also be stationed there. He had, in fact, been the Astros’ primary first baseman the year before and played there about as well as Perez had in the past. Pete Rose had moved from left field to right field in deference to rising youngster Bernie Carbo. Cabo had been worth 4.4 WAR in 1970, faltered in 1971, and after a slow start was dealt in 1972, pushing Rose back to left. The young Hal McRae got a lot of playing time and might have been an option. George Foster was on the roster but didn’t play much and hit poorly when he did. The Reds chose to stick Menke at third base and slide Perez across the diamond.

I wasn’t there, and I don’t know what all happened, but here’s the thing. Menke was a short timer however you looked at it, and the Reds had more good hitters than the WBA, WBC, and IBF combined. But Perez looked like a first baseman and hit like one, so the move made sense. But in retrospect, leaving Perez be would have given the Reds many more opportunities and made Perez more valuable. During his time at third base, Perez earned 12 positional runs (he did appear other places from time to time). Perez left Cincinnati after 1976, but in those five years, the positional adjustment for third base was three runs a season, or 15 runs over those five years. At first base it was -45 runs. If Perez played every day, the difference between the positions was 60 runs without factoring in defense or anything else. Perez was a good first baseman from 1972–1976 and picked up 17 fielding runs. So the net of his positional adjustment and fielding was -28 runs. Perez could have been a -42 run fielder at third base over that same time and still have earned out at the hot corner.

The worst defender with 50% of his games at third base in that time as Richie Hebner who “earned” -37 runs. Bill Madlock placed with -32 runs. Dave Roberts to show at -30. Bill Melton next at -29, and the only other player over -20 was Paul Schaal at -30. Whether contemporary observers saw it or not, Perez played a good enough third base to have likely avoided that kind of disaster artistry.

And that’s just the BBREF Rfield side of the story. DRA pegs him at 8 runs instead of 17 from 1972–1976, and it likes his defense a lot at third, to the tune of 22 runs from 1967–1971. I understand why Sparky Anderson and Bob Howsam made the move they did. It seemed like a good baseball move based on the understandings of the game in 1972. Looking backwards, though, it’s possible that the difference between Tony Perez first baseman and Tony Perez Hall of Merit third baseman came down simply to a trade, a decision, and 100 years of soon-to-be-obsolete conventional baseball wisdom.—Eric

The 2018 BBWAA Election, A Miller and Eric Conversation

Miller: Congratulations are in order for Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman, the BBWAA Hall class of 2018. For these four men, for their families, and for their fans, I’m incredibly happy. I am.

As far as the players go, I’m really not happy with the induction of Trevor Hoffman. Those familiar with the Hall of Miller and Eric know that short-career pitchers in our book need otherworldly numbers to make up for a lack of career depth. And for the record, Hoffman pitched about 1,000 innings fewer than Johan Santana and about 2,500 fewer than Mike Mussina. His numbers fall short. My rankings put him at exactly #200 all-time, in the same boat with guys like Josh Beckett and Chris Carpenter.

For some, clearing ballot space is important enough that anyone who we think will inevitably get in should get in now so they don’t drain votes in future elections. I really disagree. Hoffman is now in the Hall forever. That’s kind of a long time. Further, it’s all sorts of awful that he and Jack Morris will be giving speeches this summer while Curt Schilling and Mussina will have to wait. And don’t get me started on Johan.

Eric: Agreed. Forever is a lot longer than we think it is. But let’s take the not-good-but-advantageous with the bad. Something like 1,500 ballot slots have just opened up. Mariano Rivera will take about 420 of them next year. That leaves 1,100, of which Edgar Martinez needs just 20 more, Mike Mussina needs just 49, and Curt Schilling needs 101. And that means that even if those three backloggers each got in with less than 80% of the vote, there’d still be over 1,000 ballot slots available for Larry Walker to make another big gain.

Miller: You’re so practical. And also so correct. Aside from the guys who got in, I think the guys I’m happiest about are Edgar, Mussina, Larry Walker, and Scott Rolen. The first two have set themselves up for future election. I still have hope for Walker. And Rolen staying on the ballot means you never know. Voters are going to improve in coming years. While some will learn nothing, many more will keep working at their craft. Many more will try to understand value. When that happens, it bodes very well for guys like Walker and Rolen.

Eric: Edgar’s got to pick up 4.6% in one year to get in the front door in 2019. Seems like a gimme since he surged by 12% this year. Then again Craig Biggio. Still, to me the most fascinating dynamic on the 2019 ballot will be around Mike Mussina. He snagged an additional 12.5% over last year, and it put him over the 60% threshold with five years to go. He officially has the sheen of inevitability. But, next year he deals with new pitchers Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, and Andy Pettitte. Will voters see Rivera as a “pitcher”? That could have a mildly suppressing effect by making Mo the best one on the ballot. Will they prefer Doc even with the nearly 70 fewer wins, but with a lot more hardware and the playoff no-hitter? Will they see Pettitte as a “true Yankee” and give Moose a meh? Or will he make a big leap because the BBWAA can’t figure out Halladay and put Rivera in the “Closer” bucket? I mean, another 12 points, and he’s in.

Miller: I think Mussina is set up incredibly well, though I don’t know about 2019. Competing with Mariano doesn’t matter at all. He’s a different animal, and I think he has a shot at unanimity. But I’ll save his discussion for another day. As for Pettitte, I don’t think he matters much. I haven’t seen evidence of any “true Yankee” bias. It certainly didn’t help Bernie Williams. Or Willie Randolph. Or Graig Nettles. Or Ron Guidry. Plus, Pettitte has real PED taint. He actually admitted using HGH in 2002. That fact, coupled with the fact that he’s very much on the borderline, means he could be one and done on the ballot. I don’t think he drags Mussina any. To me, the interesting cat is Halladay. Much like David Ortiz has helped voters reevaluate Edgar Martinez, I think Halladay will make voters reconsider Mussina to a degree. Wins still matter a ton (see Johan Santana), and Halladay has just 203 of them. Comparatively, 270 is ridiculously high. For voters wanting to approve Halladay, I think they’re going to have to improve Mussina. And heck, maybe Halladay’s playoff luster makes them reconsider Curt Schilling too. Sure, the NLDS no-no was nice but any pro-Halladay momentum that exists because of playoff pitching has to help Curt Schilling quite a bit.

And speaking of Schilling, I’d love for any writer to discuss only the player, Curt Schilling. Come to think of it, I’d appreciate it if more writers would discuss the player at all. I’m becoming more and more hardline on Schilling and his political views not mattering. And the best platform he has to spew those views is when a hundred writers talk about them for two months a year. Many wouldn’t even know about them otherwise. For some, I’m sure they investigate after reading their favorite columnist’s words. And I suspect Schilling has more social media followers because of the BBWAA. Those things aside, I’m happy he’s up 6.2 percentage points from last year. I’m happy he’s over 50%. He has four more tries, which I think could be enough. Whatever the case, I’m glad one of the greatest post-season pitchers, and an underrated regular season pitcher, is moving in the right direction.

Eric: Schilling will get there, and he’ll deserve a plaque. Nuf sed. We both think Larry Walker also deserves a plaque, but will he get one? The guy converted nearly 40 nay voters compared to 2017, more than anyone other than Vlad Guerrero. How much hidden support might he have? First of all, 78 of the 150 10-man ballots included a vote for Walker, or 52%. Among those with ten-names who did not support him, the following 13 identified him as someone whom they wish they had more room for:

Jim Alexander
Jerry Crasnik
Mark Feisand
Tom Haudricourt
Richard Justice
Tim Kurkjian
Scott Lauber
Anthony McCarron
Mike Peticca
Brendan Prunty
Ken Rosenthal
Bob Sansevere
Jeff Wilson

What’s the chance those guys vote for Walker in 2019? Looking back at 2017, 19 voters said they wish they had room for him. One of them lost his voting eligibility (David Lariviere). Otherwise, Walker converted 72% of the rest (13 of 18), with Jay Dunn, Peter Gammons, Danny Knobler, Roger Mooney, and Rosenthal, mentioned above. But he’s also about to lose Rick Plumlee’s support because the voter eligibility rules are about to give him the boot. That’s life in the big city. Walker’s got two years, and, let’s be honest, it’s unlikely that he’s going to zoom up the charts by 36%. Not impossible, but highly improbable. There’s too many guys between him and immortality. Two to four strong candidates hit next year, depending on your perceptions, and four went away this year. In 2019, everyone will vote for Mo, and Edgar Martinez will almost certainly find the 20 votes he needs, and it’s not impossible that Mike Mussina gains another 11.5% to win election after similar gains in recent years. If all those things happen, and especially if Roy Halladay somehow also gets his plaque in 2019, the rest of the ballot could see an updraft in 2020 when Saint Derek is the only major new eligible. If Walker can get to 45% or higher in 2018, the suction in 2020 could lift him over 50% or maybe 60%, in which case, he’s much better than even odds with the VC.

Miller: And then there’s the elephant in the room. At least in our room. It’s Johan Santana. For the fifth time since 2010 (Jim Edmonds, Kenny Lofton, Kevin Brown, and Kevin Appier), a player we consider fully qualified for the Hall got booted on the first ballot. I don’t know the right answer, but I’d like a different minimum threshold in the first year, maybe 1%. What if a player fell off the ballot if they didn’t meet a minimum of 1%, 2%, 4%, 8%, and 16% in their first five seasons? After that it would rise to 20% for the remainder of the time. Such a system would serve players like Johan. It would also give a second ballot to Jamie Moyer and Johnny Damon. And though I hate mentioning those guys in the same breath as Santana, they wouldn’t get much beyond one ballot, and they were far better than the Carlos Lees of the world anyway. Further, my system wouldn’t clog things because folks like Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa wouldn’t be around for more than five seasons. I don’t know that my system is better. Maybe it’s only different. I do wish, however, the voters got to examine Johan Santana’s case more than they did.

Eric: Yes, it’s a crime that Johan’s case won’t be reviewed in future seasons. Of course, that’s why the Hall of Miller and Eric exists, to right wrongs. Our 2018 HoME election comes up on February 5.

Grading the BBWAA Ballots, #199-209

Yes, there are only 208 ballots in the Tracker as I post this, but I’m running with Bob Nightengale’s. This is my last post before tomorrow’s announcement. I’ll return at some point with all of the ballots that eventually become public in one place.

Hope you enjoyed this series! And let’s keep our fingers crossed for Edgar!

Rating system and 1-4, 5-7, 8-9, 10, 11-14, 15, 16-17, 18-25, 26-32, 33, 34-39, 40-46, 47-51, 52-54, 55-66, 67-81, 82-91, 92-100, 101-105, 106-118, 119-136, 137-146, 147-155, 156-163, 164-168, 169, 170-175, 176-179, 180-182, 183, 184-185, 186-195, 196-197, 198

The Ballots

Marcos Breton: 65

  • Bonds, Clemens, Vlad, Chipper, Edgar, Mussina, Manny, and Thome total 80.
  • That’s where he stays with Hoffman.
  • And Vizquel drops him to 70.
  • His Schilling stance is troubling to me, and I am disgusted by many of the things Schilling says. “The rules say we can take “character” into account. I find Curt Schilling to be a hateful person who uses is fame and media platforms to spread the kind of hate dividing our country. It’s taken me a few years to come to this conclusion, but there it is. I’ll never vote for him.” I have to dock him 5 points, which moves him to 65.
  • There’s very little Twitter interaction. There’s no Vizquel explanation. He doesn’t explain why Vlad is an add and Sosa a drop. I already dinged him for one of his drops though.

Pete Caldera: 55

  • Bonds, Clemens, Vlad, Chipper, Manny, Schilling, Sheffield, and Thome start him with 80.
  • Vizquel drops him to 70.
  • The blank space makes it 60.
  • From what he say, Vizquel was “the finest defensive shortstop for the longest time”. Huh? Since this is his 11th ballot, he’s been covering the game for 21 seasons. That means he either grew up on Ozzie Smith or didn’t watch baseball. I assume it’s the latter. That would explain a thing or two. Down 5 to 55.
  • He calls Manny Ramirez “feared”. I hate that, but Manny did top 200 IBB. No change.
  • He wants to keep talking about Scott Rolen. You know, a vote in that direction would have been nice. Let’s hope it doesn’t matter.

Paul Daugherty: -45

  • Vlad, Chipper, and Thome. That’s 30 for the guy.
  • The seven open spaces mean he falls to -40.
  • He dropped Sheffield this year. No reasoning provided.
  • No reasoning at all, so he’s down to -45.

Jeffrey Flanagan: 65

  • Bonds, Clemens, Vlad, Chipper, Edgar, Manny, Thome, and Walker make 80.
  • No change with Hoffman.
  • The open space drops him to 70.
  • He compares closers to kickers. Ick. He says nothing else of substance, so he falls 5 to 65.

Rob Giles: -25

  • Vlad, Chipper, Thome, and Walker. Wow, that’s only 40.
  • The six blanks mean he falls to -20.
  • So this isn’t quite as disgusting as Livingston’s Cleveland-only ballot. But it’s in the neighborhood. He votes for three guys who are going to wind up over 90% and a player from Canada for a guy on Twitter who describes himself on Twitter as “Chief of Bureau for The Associated Press in Canada. Baseball Hall of Fame voter. Canadian.”
  • And since he can’t explain his awful ballot, there’s no explanation. He falls to -25.

Chris Haft: 60

  • Bonds, Clemens, Vlad, Chipper, Kent, Edgar, Mussina, and Thome start him at 80.
  • Hoffman keeps him there.
  • Vizquel drops him to 70.
  • Why in the world do people keep voting for Vizquel? Haft writes that it’s because he covered Omar while both were in San Francisco. I’d like to do little study of Vizquel’s public votes. I think there are a huge number of supporters of his who covered him. It’s the eye test. Don’t trust the eye test! Down 5 to 65.
  • No explanation of any real value, so he falls to 60.

Paul Hagen: 70

  • Bonds, Clemens, Vlad, Chipper, Rolen, Schilling, Thome, and Walker make 80.
  • The two relievers keep him there.
  • On one hand, he didn’t vote for Vizquel. On the other, he hopes that Omar gets the 5% he needs to stay on the ballot. Imagine, just imagine, working for MLB.com and not having a clue of the existence of the Tracker. Imagine working at MLB.com and never discussing the Hall ballot with a colleague. I want to take away 3,000 points. It’ll just be 10. Down to 70.
  • Nobody knows for sure who used and who didn’t use PEDs. True. He gets 5 points back to return to 75.
  • But his explanations are insufficient. Down again to 70.

Carrie Muskat: -10

  • Bonds, Clemens, Vlad, Chipper, and Thome start her at 50.
  • Vizquel means a drop to 40.
  • The four open spots bring this effort down to 0.
  • She calls Vizquel an easy selection because she never wanted to miss him playing shortstop, caring nothing about his overall value, apparently. Down to -5.
  • She actually spent 23 of her 95-word explanation talking about Kerry Wood. I’m not kidding. Down to -10.

Bob Nightengale: 75

  • This ballot was up in the Tracker for a little while but then disappeared. I’m sure Ryan has a good reason not to include it in the Tracker, but I trust that Nightengale’s USA Today piece represents his actual opinion. I just looked up the link.
  • Bonds, Clemens, Vlad, Chipper, Mussina, Sheffield, Sosa, and Thome start him at 80.
  • No change with Hoffman or McGriff.
  • He’s not a fan of the moralizing. His line is a positive test or suspension during the player’s career. Let’s give him 5 more to 85.
  • He implies that McGriff didn’t use. That’s down 10 to 75.
  • Overall, I wish he explained more than just his PED stance, but at least there’s something.

Rob Rains: -40

  • Vlad, Chipper, and Thome make 30.
  • Hoffman holds him at 30.
  • Those six open spots drop him to -30.
  • He seems either unable or unwilling to answer some direct questions on Twitter.
  • He’s one of those guys who won’t vote for great players on the first ballot if they’re not great enough. Down 5 to -35.
  • He justifies not voting for Edgar because he didn’t see him play enough. Wow! Down 5 more , which makes -40.

John Rowe: -15

  • Vlad, Chipper, Edgar, and Schilling means he gets to 40.
  • No change with Hoffman.
  • The five blanks take him to -10.
  • He calls this his most difficult ballot ever. Why???
  • He says Hoffman’s biggest “crime” is not being Mariano. I’d say it was pitching fewer than 1100 excellent, but not other-worldly, innings.
  • He compares Edgar Martinez to a placekicker. Ridiculous, but at least he voted for him.
  • He doesn’t want Schilling to be penalized for his political views.
  • He calls Bonds and Clemens rule breakers. They weren’t, so he loses 5 to -15.

The Scores

Peter Barzilai: 100
Ken Davidoff: 100
Ryan Fagan: 100
Mark Feinsand: 100
Mark Hale: 100
Sam Mellinger: 100
Mark Newman: 100
Joe Posnanski: 100
Scott Priestle: 100
C. Trent Rosecrans: 100
Michael Silverman: 100
Mike Bass: 95
Erik Boland: 95
Mark Bradley: 95
Josh Dubow: 95
Jeff Fletcher: 95
Janie McCauley: 95
Phil Miller: 95
J.P. Morosi: 95
Steve Politi: 95
TR Sullivan: 95
Dom Amore: 90
Anthony Andro: 90
Mike Berardino: 90
Tim Booth: 90
Ryan Divish: 90
Derrick Goold: 90
Patrick Graham: 90
Evan Grant: 90
Mike Harrington: 90
Mike Imrem: 90
Bob Sanvarese: 90
Mike Vaccaro: 90
Anonymous #4: 85
Peter Abraham: 85
David Ammenheuser: 85
Chris Bahr: 85
Peter Botte: 85
Dave Campbell: 85
Pat Caputo: 85
Marc Carig: 85
Jay Cohen: 85
Brian Costello: 85
Tim Cowlishaw: 85
Tom D’Angelo: 85
Chris De Luca: 85
Tom Dienhart: 85
Dan Hayes: 85
Bob Herzog: 85
Garry D. Howard: 85
Bob Klapisch: 85
Roch Kubatko: 85
Rob Maaddi: 85
David Maril: 85
Anthony McCarron: 85
Joe McDonald: 85
Nick Pietruszkiewicz: 85
Rick Plumlee: 85
Brendan Prunty: 85
Luis Rangel: 85
Tim Reynolds: 85
John Romano: 85
Ken Rosenthal: 85
Jayson Stark: 85
Bernie Wilson: 85
Jack Curry: 80
Ian Harrison: 80
Lynn Henning: 80
Scott Lauber: 80
Ian O’Connor: 80
Steve Popper: 80
Jeff Wilson: 80
Amalie Benjamin: 75
Steve Buckley: 75
Larry Brooks: 75
Garry Brown: 75
Joe Haakenson: 75
Kevin Kernan: 75
Joseph Liao: 75
Jack Magruder: 75
Sean McAdam: 75
Roger Mooney: 75
Aurelio Moreno: 75
Bob Nightengale: 75
Mike Puma: 75
Tracy Ringolsby: 75
Mark Saxson: 75
Mike Shalin: 75
Barry Bloom: 70
Kevin Cooney: 70
Paul Hagen: 70
Richard Justice: 70
Tim Kawakami: 70
Mike Nadel: 70
Katsushi Nagao: 70
Carl Steward: 70
Kirk Wessler: 70
Anonymous #3: 65
Kirby Arnold: 65
Filip Bondy: 65
Marcos Breton: 65
Roberto Colon: 65
Greg Cote: 65
Shi Davidi: 65
Jeffrey Flanagan: 65
Peter Gammons: 65
David Lennon: 65
John McGrath: 65
Bruce Miles: 65
Kevin Modesti: 65
Ross Newhan: 65
John Perrotto: 65
Dave Reynolds: 65
Anthony Rieber: 65
Adam Rubin: 65
Henry Schulman: 65
John Shea: 65
Claire Smith: 65
Willie Smith: 65
Paul White: 65
George Willis: 65
Nick Cafardo: 60
Chris Haft: 60
Barry Rozner: 60
John Tomase: 60
Earl Bloom: 55
Pete Caldera: 55
Mark Faller: 55
John Harper: 55
Chuck Johnson: 55
Jack McCaffery: 55
Mike Peticca: 55
Jeff Jacobs: 50
Dave Perkins: 50
Anonymous #1: 45
Dave Albee: 45
Jaime Aron: 45
Tony DeMarco: 45
John Eradi: 45
Steven Gietschier: 45
Steve Goldman: 45
Roger Rubin: 45
Arnie Stapleton: 45
Clark Spencer: 40
Don Burke: 35
Jay Greenberg: 35
Bob Hohler: 35
Michael Knisley: 35
Sadiel Lebron: 35
Jeff Peek: 35
Steve Wine: 35
Jay Dunn: 30
Bob Ryan: 30
Rick Telander: 30
Andrew Call: 25
Carter Gaddis: 25
Dan Gelston: 25
Thom Loverro: 25
Steve Simmons: 20
Andrew Baggarly: 15
Jeff Blair: 15
Sam Charchidi: 15
Jon Heyman: 15
Bernie Lincicome: 15
Bob Smizik: 15
Rick Morrissey: 10
Rob Parker: 10
Mel Antonen: 5
Rob Biertempfel: 5
Mike Gonzales: 5
Karen Guregian: 5
Mark Herrmann: 5
Marc Katz: 5
Bill Plunkett: 5
Bill Ballou: 0
Art Davidson: 0
Tony Massarotti: 0
Bob Sherwin: 0
Scott Gregor: -5
Jose de Jesus Ortiz: -5
John Delcos: -10
Dejan Kovacevic: -10
Carrie Muskat: -10
Paul Sullivan: -10
Chris Assenheimer: -15
David Borges: -15
John Rowe: -15
Glenn Schwarz: -15
Rob Giles: -25
Terrence Moore: -25
Juan Vené: -25
Anonymous #2: -35
Jimmy Golen: -35
Steve Marcus: -35
Rob Rains: -40
Paul Daugherty: -45
Jim Street: -45
Dan Shaughnessy: -55
Murray Chass: -70
Mark Purdy: -75
Bill Livingston: -95

The System

  • You get 10 points for every player you select who I think has a reasonable case for the Hall. Alphabetically that means 10 points for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Johan Santana, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, or Larry Walker. That’s 16 guys to choose from.
  • You get 0 points for either Trevor Hoffman or Billy Wagner. Frequent readers will be surprised and most sabermetric thinkers will disagree with this stance since the value these pitchers created during their careers is about on par with John Tudor or Burt Hooton. However, as I judge these ballots, I want to give every chance that I could be wrong.
  • That’s why it’s also 0 points for Johnny Damon (I rank him 33rd in CF) or Fred McGriff (40th at 1B). For me, these are easy “no” votes, but I do respect the big Hall voter. And I don’t think you should have to vote for the ten best, just ten deserving. If I do a ton of squinting, I could get Damon in. McGriff, not so much. So…
  • You lose 10 points if you justify your McGriff vote by saying he was clean.
  • You also lose 10 if you vote for McGriff but not Thome, a player pretty much with the exact same case as McGriff, only a lot better.
  • You also lose 10 points for voting for anyone else on the ballot.
  • You lose 10 points for every empty space on your ballot. Even if you’re an anti-steroid voter, you can still fill your ballot with guys on the first list.
  • You lose 10 points for voting for Bonds and not Clemens, or vice versa.
  • You lose 10 points for talking about character, morality, or Joe Morgan (if you do so in a positive way).
  • You lose 10 points for voting for other steroid guys, but not Clemens or Bonds.
  • You lose 5 points for not explaining your ballot.
  • You lose 5 points for each judgment of the morality of specific players.
  • You lose 5 points for mentioning Coors Field as an argument against Larry Walker.
  • You lose 5 points for any comparison between Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith.
  • You lose 5 points for a vote against Edgar Martinez because he was a DH.
  • You lose 5 points for any other case of ridiculous logic.
  • You lose 5 more points if you send in a blank protest ballot.
  • You lose 5 points if you vote for Pete Rose. Just stop it!
  • You gain 5 points for saying the Hall should allow writers to vote for more than ten guys (a stance I don’t agree with) or for saying the Hall should make all ballots public (one I agree with).
  • You max out at 100 points.
  • Your score can dip as low as it dips.
  • I will edit this post as the voting season unfolds and I improve my method.

Miller

Institutional History

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