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Carlos Delgado

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Mount Rushmore, Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays, SIAn 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.

Guys It’s Not

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.

Blue Jay Mount 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, 2017Marcus 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.

My Blue Jay Rushmore

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, 1985Tony 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.

Miller

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Year End HoME Roundup, 1B

Paul Goldschmidt, 2017, 2Today we begin our discussion of how players improved (or didn’t) their Hall of Miller and Eric candidacies with their 2017 performances. We start today with first base.

Albert Pujols

2017 BBREF WAR: -1.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   6
Ahead of Dan Brouthers, Jeff Bagwell, and Rod Carew.
Trailing Jimmie Foxx, Roger Connor, and Cap Anson.

Eric:       4
Ahead of Jimmie Foxx, Roger Connor, and Dan Brouthers
Trailing Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, and Cap Anson

Current career trajectory:
Oh, things are going downhill in a hurry. Back in April I said I thought he’d catch Roger Connor for fourth place on my all-time 1B list. I no longer think that. In fact, I don’t think he’ll repass Jimmie Foxx. And the Angels still owe him well over $100 million. Yikes!

HoME Outlook:
Pujols guaranteed admission into the Hall as soon as he stepped onto the field for his tenth season. He was in the HoME before that. Clearly he’s not going to fall out of the HoME, though for kids who are 14 or so, they’re going to think Pujols was a stinky player. Unless what they think is important is driving in runs. Thanks to Mike Trout, he still had 101 of those this year.
—Miller

Miguel Cabrera

2017 BBREF WAR: -0.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   17
Ahead of Jim Thome, Hank Greenberg, and Rafael Palmeiro.
Trailing Keith Hernandez, George Sisler, and Ernie Banks.

Eric:       19
Ahead of Willie McCovey, Joey Votto, and Eddie Murray
Trailing Todd Helton, Bill Terry, and Rafael Palmeiro

Current career trajectory:
So Cabrera turns 35 in April, had injury issues (groin, oblique, hip, back) throughout the year, and has forgotten how to hit. This isn’t the same drop that he experienced three years ago when he merely fell from beast-level to excellent. This is a drop that makes him look more like the current Albert Pujols than the old one who he sort of resembled.

HoME Outlook:
Miggy has been clearly above the HoME in/out line for a couple of years now. At this point we’re just talking legacy, and chances of getting into the inner circle. In April I was hopeful he’d rise as high at 8th at 1B before he hung ‘em up. Now I think not losing ground might be an accomplishment. Then again, he’s only going to be 35 next year, and it’s possible he’ll be injury-free in 2018. If he is, there’s still some reason to believe he can more closely resemble the 155 OPS+ player from 2016 than the 92 OPS+ player he was in 2017.
—Miller

Joey Votto

2017 BBREF WAR: 7.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   26
Ahead of Jake Beckley, Mark McGwire, and Will Clark.
Trailing Bill Terry, Eddie Murray, and Dick Allen.

Eric: 21
Ahead of Eddie Murray, Mark McGwire, and Harry Stovey
Trailing Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Cabrera, and Willie McCovey

Current career trajectory: With a deal that runs through age 40, Votto’s got some job security. On the other hand, he makes his living via old-player skills. Virtually all of his BBREF comps cratered in their 30s. On the other other hand, Votto seems like a very intelligent player who uses information in wise ways. He may age a little more gracefully if he adapts his game on the fly. Regardless, it’s not crazy at this juncture to imagine him finishing in the top ten among first basemen. Of course one’s mileage may vary depending on whether you consider Stan Musial, Rod Carew, and Ernie Banks first basemen.

HoME Outlook: Unless he starts churning out Pujols 2017 seasons for several years running, bronze awaits him.
—Eric

Adrian Gonzalez

2017 BBREF WAR: -1.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   48
Ahead of Harry Davis, Don Mattingly, and Mark Grace.
Trailing Dolph Camilli, Joe Start, and Jack Fournier.

Eric: 45
Ahead of Paul Goldschmidt, Harry Davis, and Mark Grace
Trailing Orlando Cepeda, Joe Start, and Don Mattingly

Current career trajectory:
Next year he’ll be 36 with a bad back. His career trajectory is heading toward retirement.

HoME Outlook: He’s like Don Mattingly or Mark Grace or Carlos Delgado, a very nice player who we should never confuse with a Hall of Famer.
—Miller

Paul Goldschmidt

2017 BBREF WAR: 5.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   52
Ahead of Pedro Guerrero, Rudy York, and Bill White.
Trailing Mark Grace, Don Mattingly, and Harry Davis.

Eric: 46
Ahead of Harry Davis, Mark Grace, and Dave Orr
Trailing Joe Start, Don Mattingly, and Adrian Gonzalez

Current career trajectory: Goldschmidt is in the midst of his peak years. There’s only one thing he on the field that’s below average at, and that’s avoiding double plays. He’s athletic and effectively turns those abilities into high-impact baseball. The player he reminds me most of is Jeff Bagwell who similarly could field, run, and hit like crazy.

HoME Outlook: Nine first basemen since the war have made the Hall of Miller and Eric. They averaged 35 BBREF WAR by age 28. Goldschmidt has earned that exact amount. Which guarantees nothing. Will Clark had earned 34 by that age and Orlando Cepeda 33. But none of the nine next highest 1Bs below the borderline topped Clark’s 34. In fact, they averaged 25. Goldschmidt is in the midst of assembling a fine peak and a very strong start, but unless your peak looks like Mike Trout’s, that’s only getting you so far. In fact, it gets you to the borderline but not much further. Just ask Clark or John Olerud. Goldschmidt needs to keep riding the crest of his peak then bank a lot of shoulder seasons to go with it. He seems likely to make it at this point, but we might have said the same for Don Mattingly and his 32 BBREF WAR at 28.
—Eric

Freddie Freeman

2017 BBREF WAR: 4.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 93
Ahead of Mo Vaughn, Hal Chase, and Charlie Comiskey.
Trailing Prince Fielder, Joe Kuhel, and Bill Skowron.

Eric: 91
Ahead of Hal Chase and every other first baseman in history below Chase
Trailing Mo Vaughn, Bill Skowron, and Joe Kuhel

Current career trajectory: Freeman’s career isn’t dissimilar to Rafael Palmeiro’s at the same age. I wouldn’t bet on his duplicating Raffy’s stellar second decade in the game, but as a guy whose value bubbles just above but mostly just below All-Star level, that’s the map he’ll have to follow.

HoME Outlook: Hmmm. On one hand, his 27 BBREF WAR place between the average postwar HoME first baseman at age 27 and their nearest competitors just below the borderline. On the other hand, Freeman’s total is a couple marks below the HoME average, though well above the trailers’ average. Despite this he’s borderliners Clark and Cepeda. So far he appears to be on the long-and-low route. That’s a tough path that Jake Beckley, Gil Hodges, and Tony Perez fell short with. Importantly, we have yet to see evidence that Freeman can produce an MVP-level year. Let alone a couple or a few.
—Eric

Anthony Rizzo

2017 BBREF WAR: 4.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 88
Ahead of Carlos Santana, Bill Skowron, and Joe Kuhel.
Trailing Bob Watson, Mike Napoli, and Kevin Youkilis.

Eric: 84
Ahead of Vic Wertz, Prince Fielder, and Roy Sievers
Trailing Joe Adcock, Bob Watson, and Ron Fairly

Current career trajectory: His comps are filled with dudes who fizzed in their 30s. Kent Hrbek, guys like that. But deeper down are some guys who lasted longer too. But they are borderliners like Olerud and Clark.

HoME Outlook: Another 27 year old, Rizzo falls into exactly the same spot that Freeman does in terms of his career so far vis a vis HoMErs and runners up. But Rizzo has bunched up several All-Star type seasons where Freeman hasn’t. With strong defensive chops, Rizzo could do a little better than some of his scarier comps (Jason Thompson, John Mayberry in addition to Hrbek). He’s amazingly durable, too. But as a hitter, if he’s a finished product, he’s going the Eddie Murray/Rafael Palmeiro route, which means he needs to be not only durable but have impressive longevity. Turning out an MVP-level year would really help us see his case more clearly and open up more paths to glory for him.
—Eric

Mike Napoli

2017 BBREF WAR: -0.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 86
Ahead of Bob Watson, Anthony Rizzo, and Carlos Santana.
Trailing Kevin Youkilis, Mickey Vernon, and Roy Sievers.

Eric: 78
Ahead of Carlos Santana, Tino Martinez, and Joe Adcock
Trailing Phil Cavaretta, Kevin Youkilis, and Mickey Vernon

Current career trajectory:
Napoli will be 36 next season, and guys who are 36 don’t tend to fare too well. Does he have the 33 home runs in him that it will take to reach 300? Maybe.

HoME Outlook
I wouldn’t put my money on Mike Napoli getting into the Hall, but it’s not totally out of the question either, if he knows some of the guys on the selection committee, that is. Hall of Famers within five career WAR of Napoli through age-35 include Ross Youngs, Chick Hafey, Ray Schalk, Freddie Lindstrom, High Pockets, Kelly, Rick Ferrell, Lloyd Waner, and Deacon White. I suspect Napoli won’t get so lucky.
—Miller

Carlos Santana

2017 BBREF WAR: 3.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 89
Ahead of Bill Skowron, Joe Kuhel, and Prince Fielder.
Trailing Anthony Rizzo, Bob Watson, and Mike Napoli.

Eric: 79
Ahead of Tino Martinez, Joe Adcock, and Bob Watson
Trailing Kevin Youkilis, Mickey Vernon, and Mike Napoli

Current career trajectory:
He’s never been a great player. That won’t likely turn around next year at age 32.

HoME Outlook:
Even if we decide to triple the HoME in size, he’s not going. At least that’s my prediction. There are a few all-time greats within five WAR of Santana at the same age. Of course, they’re special cases like Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson. They’re middle infielders and catchers like Luke Appling and Ernie Lombardi. But maybe Santana could turn into Jim O’Rourke or Edgar Martinez if things work out a certain, almost impossible way. Like I said, he’s not going.
—Miller

Second base is on its way Friday!

RIP, Players Falling Off the 2015 Ballot

Nomar GarciaparraThis post stinks. It’s the last of the posts we had planned when we welcomed all of you to our project some 26 months ago. For me, this process has been a pleasure, and I’m sad that it’s kind of over (even though we’re going to keep writing periodically). It’s allowed me to work with a great baseball analyst and writer, someone who I’m proud to call a friend, Eric. And it’s helped me to learn so much more about the game that I treasure. Plus, it’s surprisingly cool to use the phrase “my blog” in casual conversation.

Enough about me. You’re here for the last set of obituaries. We started with an empty HoME. And we’re now filled, at least until the Hall elects more, with what we believe are the 215 greatest players eligible, at least by our definitions. We also started without any obituaries and no plan at all to write them. But now we’ve written 538 in total, both for the pretty good and for the nearly HoME-worthy.

Want to read exactly how we got here? Below is the tally from every single election we’ve held. All 55 of them.

Year   Carried     New      Considered   Elected   Obituaries  Continuing to
         Over    Nominees  this Election                       Next Election
2014       0        11          11          5           6            0
2013       0        15          15          7           8            0
2012       5         5          10          1           9            0
2011       6         9          15          4           6            5
2010       8         9          17          3           8            6
2009      10         8          18          4           6            8
2008      11         7          18          2           6           10 
2007      12        15          27          5          11           11
2006      13         5          18          1           5           12
2005      12         8          20          2           5           13
2004      13         8          21          4           5           12
2003      14         7          21          2           6           13
2002      18         7          25          6           5           14
2001      23         8          31          2          11           18
2000      26         9          35          1          11           23
1999      30         9          39          4           9           26
1998      33         9          42          4           8           30
1997      40         3          43          3           7           33
1996      42         7          49          4           5           40
1995      41        11          52          4           6           42
1994      38       8+1          47          3           3           41
1993      41         9          50          3           9           38
1992      40        10          50          3           6           41
1991      40         9          49          1           8           40
1990      42         9          51          3           8           40
1989      45        10          55          6           7           42
1988      44         7          51          2           4           45   
1987      44         3          47          0           3           44
1986      44         4          48          1           3           44
1985      47        10          57          1          12           44
1984      50         5          55          2           6           47
1983      52         8          60          5           5           50
1982      51         8          59          3           4           52
1981      59         8          67          1          15           51
1980      59         8          67          3           5           59
1979      67         6          73          6           8           59
1978      78         6          84          5          12           67
1977      86         6          92          2          11           79
1976      82        26         108          6          16           86
1971      87        21         108          6          20           82
1966      94        26         120          7          26           87
1961      91        24         115          6          15           94
1956      92        32         124          7          26           91
1951      93        27         120          9          19           92
1946      94        26         120          8          19           93
1941      82        29         111          5          12           94
1936      75        29         104          8          14           82
1931      69        17          86          2           9           75
1926      71        25          96          9          18           69
1921      66        27          93          4          18           71
1916      53        31          84          5          13           66
1911      47        20          67          5           9           53
1906      33        28          61          3          11           47
1901       0        54          54          3          18           33

Dead in 2015

Carlos DelgadoWhen you played at the same time as Thome, Thomas, McGwire, Olerud, Clark, McGriff, and others, it’s easy to get lost as a first baseman. To an extent, Carlos Delgado and his 473 home runs got lost. He made only two All-Star teams and never went to a World Series. I guess getting lost isn’t shocking. Of course, he was great the one time he reached the playoffs, hitting .351/.442/.757 in 2006. He also homered three times against the Cards that year in a losing effort. And only 16 players ever can top him in HR and 2B. Every one of them is in the HoME or going. Delgado was pretty great, just not great enough.

Nomar Garciaparra was on his way to the Hall of Fame. He was 29, had been an All-Star five times, had 173 homers from the shortstop position, and had won the 1997 AL Rookie of the Year. But to the 41 WAR he had through 2003, he added only three more wins in his final six seasons and was out of baseball at age 35. Trivially, he’s the only player ever to hit two grand slams in one game in front of his home fans. The other twelve all did it on the road.

Brian GilesWonderfully underrated during his time, Brian Giles might have been a Hall of Famer had he come up with a different franchise or at a different time. Giles was a very effective player in AAA in 1994 and 1995. It wasn’t until 1996 that he got any real time in the majors, and it wasn’t even much then. That’s what happens when Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, and Eddie Murray occupy your corner OF and DH spots. When Giles got the chance, he excelled. And when he was shipped to Pittsburgh in 1999 he became a star. In his first four seasons there, he was among the half dozen most valuable hitters in the game, even though he made only two All-Star teams. For overall value, think Hall of Famers Sam Thompson and Enos Slaughter. He doesn’t deserve to get in, but it’s a shame Brian Giles won’t see another Hall of Fame ballot.

Tom GordonQuite an interesting career was had by starter turned closer, turned set-up man, turned closer, Tom Gordon. That first sentence pretty much explains it. Gordon won 17 games as a rookie Royal, he led the AL in saves and made the All-Star team for the Red Sox, he was an outstanding set-up man and again an All-Star with the Yankees, and he made his third and final All-Star team as a closer for the Phillies. Don’t ask Gordon about the playoffs. In 21 appearances he had a 7.06 ERA. It’s not clear why teams kept pitching him.

That’s it. We’re caught up, which should be wonderful, but is bittersweet. Like I said above though, the Hall of Miller and Eric isn’t going away. We may have a less ambitious schedule going forward than we had in the past, but we’ll still be here. As always, please take a look at our Honorees page to see the plaques of all of the members of our HoME. And you should absolutely check back around the time of the Pre-Integration Ballot in December and the BBWAA ballot in January. Thanks for reading!

Miller

It’s Nice to Be Nice

If he was actually nice, why wouldn't he just throw the ball to you?

If he was actually nice, why wouldn’t he just throw the ball to you?

I once had a student whose parents were atheists. When she was growing up, they didn’t teach her religion. Rather, they taught her that it’s nice to be nice (and I’m sure a whole lot of other things, but the nice thing sticks with me). There’s something beautiful about the simplicity, honesty, and accuracy of that lifestyle.

Of course, being nice isn’t exactly what blogs are all about. Or maybe it is.

Over the weekend the great Joe Posnanski posted a really cool piece called The Museum of Nice Players. In the post, basically, he wanted to pick the one player from the last forty years at every position who nobody would call a Hall of Famer but was a really nice player. With all of the caveats about Joe having forgotten more about baseball than I’ll ever know, I do take issue with some of his selections.

Catcher

Joe’s Pick: Darrell Porter

My Pick: Jim Sundberg

This is a tough call, and I can’t really disagree with Joe’s decision here. Porter was indeed a very nice player, and his 1979 season was something matched by only seven other catchers ever in terms of value. Additionally, Porter has a back story unlike that of many possible selections. Still, I prefer Sundberg’s glove to Porter’s bat. A straight JAWS voter would likely move in the direction of the great Poz, but I adjust BBREF’s defensive number by using DRA. At catcher, I don’t know that such an adjustment is exactly what should be done. On the other hand, with the information we’ve learned in the last few years about framing, I might guess that someone with Sundberg’s skill set would take a step forward. Overall, either pick is a good one.

First Base

Joe’s Pick: Mark Grace

My Pick: Carlos Delgado

This position is a tough one since there are a lot of nice players in the Hall of Fame – guys like Frank Chance, Tony Perez, and Orlando Cepeda. Those guys aren’t really at Hall level, but they’re in over guys like Keith Hernandez, Dick Allen, and Pete Rose, all of whom would be better selections on their merits.

Dolph Camilli is a nice call here, but since he retired about 70 years ago, so I’m going with Delgado. Will Clark and John Olerud are near enough to Hall-level that they don’t qualify for our game. And Fred McGriff, though further away, certainly has his supporters. I’ll take Delgado over Grace based on the former’s 2000 and 2003 seasons, two years that Grace never matched in quality.

Second Base

Joe’s Pick: Chuck Knoblauch

My Pick: Chuck Knoblauch

I’m very surprised that Joe and I agree here. Shocked. When reading his post, Knoblauch stuck out as a guy who just wasn’t “nice” enough. Then I looked at my numbers. In the last 40 or so seasons, there have been so many great second basemen – Morgan, Grich, Whitaker, Sandberg, Alomar, Biggio, Randolph – that a guy like Knoblauch got lost in the shuffle.

On one hand I really want to go with Tony Phillips, a guy who I’ve never heard anyone support unless I’m talking to Eric. Or to myself. Jeff Kent doesn’t qualify because he has his share of Hall support. I like the idea of Dick McAuliffe, but that forty year stipulation kind of cuts him out. And other “nice” players are either in the Hall – Evers, Lazzeri, Schoendienst, Fox – or they just played too long ago, like Dunlap, Pratt, Frey, Bishop, and McDougald. I’ll take Knoblauch by a shade over Davey Lopes and Ray Durham. His slashing of .341/.448/.517 in 1996 is something that neither of the other two could match.

Third Base

Joe’s Pick: Buddy Bell

My Pick: Ron Cey

Joe’s pick here is the reason I chose to write this post. I can’t say enough how clearly I believe Buddy Bell, if you’re not a small-Hall guy, is a Hall of Famer. Joe does a good job in his post comparing Bell to Brooks Robinson. He uses data that’s useful and interesting, which leads him to a conclusion I don’t think is right. Bell, for my money, ranks a tiny, tiny bit behind Brooks. If Brooks belongs in the Hall, and you don’t think he’s one of the last 20-30 guys who belongs in, I think you have to support Bell. Among retired 3B, I rank Buddy Bell #11 all-time. And that’s calling Paul Molitor a 3B. Bell danced into the Hall of Miller and Eric on his first ballot in 1995. So some people, people who I think really know their stuff, think Buddy Bell is an easy call for the Hall.

That brings me to Ron Cey. In a way, Cey is a bit like Chuck Knoblauch, a really nice player who played at a time of much better guys and was outshined. Cey had to contend with Schmidt, Brett, Boggs, Santo, Molitor, Brooks, Bell, Nettles, Evans, and Bando for some part of their careers. He also had a bunch of Dodgers, including Garvey, Sutton, Baker, Smith, Lopes, and John who took away his potential for a spotlight. Toby Harrah and Matt Williams are also good choices at third. And Robin Ventura is too, though there are those who I’ve heard support his Hall candidacy.

Shortstop

Joe’s Pick: Jim Fregosi

My Pick: Jim Fregosi

I prefer Bert Campaneris, but he has his Hall supporters and probably should. Fregosi seems to be one of the perfect guys in all of the game’s history for this distinction. We remember him as a manager, where he ranks #58 in all-time wins. And we remember him as the guy who was traded for Nolan Ryan. And we remember that trade as an absolute bust for the Mets. But we forget the tumor in Fregosi’s foot (he got hurt, he didn’t just stink up the joint). And we forget how great he was for a time. As I wrote in his 1984 HoME obituary, Fregosi averaged more WAR per year than Ryan did with the Angels. Shout outs to both Julio Franco and Nomar Garciaparra here.

 

Left Field

Joe’s Pick: Brian Downing

My Pick: George Foster

I want to choose Brian Downing sooooo badly. I think he’s my favorite player ever who never played for the Red Sox. (And isn’t named Mike Trout). But I have to do this fairly, and my system ranks Foster just a little ahead of Downing. Foster was the 1977 NL MVP after posting 52 homers and 149 ribbies. He was also pretty great for the two years before and four years after that, averaging about 5.7 wins over that span. And then, Met fans, he was traded to Queens and began to stink up the joint. In his four full seasons in New York, he had less total value than he averaged over his previous seven campaigns.

Maybe Albert Belle would be a good pick here, but I have an issue with calling Belle “nice.” And there are those who support Joey’s Hall case. I also really like Luis Gonzalez at this position, an underrated player who seems already to be forgotten. Some might think Jose Cruz is a good call here, but after 2004, the HoME thought him much better than nice.

Center Field

Joe’s Pick: Cesar Cedeno

My Pick: Chet Lemon

I think Cesar Cedeno has his Hall supporters, no? If I’m wrong, I think I like him ever so slightly more than Lemon. But if I’m right, Lemon is a really good guy here. In fact, center field is packed with nice players. Willie Wilson, Bret Butler, and Johnny Damon all come to mind. Anyway, a perusal of Lemon’s BBREF page probably yields a yawn. He topped 20 homers just once. He also only reached 80 runs scored or batted in just once. But looking deeper, we see that Chet the Jet could play some premium defense at a key position. That and finding a way to get hit by so many pitches helps keep him underrated compared to his actual value. In fact, my eqWAR has him averaging almost 4.8 wins over an eleven-year fun from 1977-1987.

Right Field

Joe’s Pick: Jesse Barfield

My Pick: Brian Giles

Part of me says that I can’t vote for Giles since there are some who consider him Hall-worthy. On the other hand, there’s the 2015 Hall of Fame results where he received the same number of votes as Eddie Guardado. So I guess I’m not underrating Giles by much when I say he doesn’t have Hall support. In his four full seasons in Pittsburgh, Giles averaged a shade over 6 WAR. It felt like he was starting a Hall of Fame career. But he was actually so good at the start in part because he was in the minors during his pre-prime and then then didn’t quite break out in Cleveland. By the time he became a Pirate, he had reached his athletic peak.

I like the creativity of Joe’s Jesse Barfield call here. What a beautiful arm on that guy! I’d also be happy with a Jack Clark or Tim Salmon mention in right.

Pitcher

Joe’s Pick: Mark Langston

My Pick: David Wells

In some ways, this is the most difficult position on the diamond because there are camps for tons of pitchers. I really wanted to go with Dwight Gooden, but many, including Adam Darowski, put him in their personal Halls. Then I wanted to go with Wilbur Wood, but his best years were just over 40 years ago. Same with Mickey Lolich. That brought me to Mark Langston and David Wells, two guys who I have within a hair of each other in terms of value. I was going to go with Langston as a nod to my partner at the HoME, who kind of supported his HoME candidacy for a while. Then it hit me. If Eric kind of supported Langston’s candidacy, he’s better than nice. So Boomer Wells it is.

Wells reached double figures in wins with six different teams. He pitched a perfect game. He wore a hat of Babe Ruth’s during a game. He had gout, which is exacerbated by booze and certain foods. And he was a really nice player. He only reached 5.4 wins twice, but he had at least half that on fourteen occasions. There are only eighteen other pitchers who can match that number.


 

So there you have it, Joe’s list and mine. Which do you like better? Or worse? Or which do you find nicer? Thanks for reading.

Miller

Positional Talent Clusters, Part I: Knowing Your ABCs

 

English: Dan Brouthers, Detroit Wolverines, ba...

English: Dan Brouthers, Detroit Wolverines, baseball card portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cap Anson, Dan Brouthers, and Roger Connor (the ABCs!) played concomitantly from 1880–1896 (17 years). All no-doubt all-time greats. Connor (84) Brouthers (79), and Anson (74) combined for an amazing 237 combined WAR in those 17 years. Are they the best trio of first-base talent in history? [By first base, I mean guys who really were first basemen, not guys who moved there after a while or due to injury. Musial, Perez, Banks, Allen, and Jack Clark aren’t who we’re talking about.]

I’m no databaser, so I eyeballed the career WAR leaderboards to see what trios might compete.

  • Gehrig (100), Foxx (68), Terry (54): 222 from 1925 to 1936
  • Gehrig (108), Foxx (72), Bottomley (28):  208 from 1925 to 1937
  • Bagwell (80), Thomas (67), and Olerud (56): 203 from 1991 to 2005
  • Pujols (92), Helton (47), and Thome (38): 177 from 2001–2012
  • McGwire (62), Palmeiro (58), and Will Clark (56): 176 from 1986 to 2000
  • McCovey (62), Killebrew (61), Cash (52): 175 from 1959 to 1974
  • McCovey (62), Killebrew (61), Cepeda (47): 170 from 1959 to 1974
  • Helton (62), Thome (56), and Giambi (50): 168 from 1997 to 2012
  • McGwire (62), Palmeiro (58), and Fred McGriff (47): 167 from 1986 to 2000
  • Bagwell (70), Thomas (52), and Delgado (40): 162 from 1993 to 2005
  • Pujols (72), Teixeira (45), Gonzalez (31): 148 from 2004 to 2013

There are probably other groups, or other permutations of these trios that I’ve overlooked in my hasty zip through history, please add any you come up with.

The ABCs dominate their own era in a way no one can even get close to, especially when you see how evenly the performance was distributed among the three of them.

But…the 1880s were an easier time to dominate. Easier than the 1920s. Plus the first Gehrig Group did its work in only 12 years, a significantly higher rate of production than the other threesomes we’ve listed. So we should crown the Twenties Trio as the best cluster.

But…the roaring 1920s was a time of pinball offense, with each league usually having a couple doormat teams among the merely eight in its league, and with zero farm systems to procure and develop talent consistently. Not to mention no relief pitching.

So, there is a reasonable argument that the Bagwell Bunch is the most impressive of the lot: they faced tougher competition—the spread from the best performers to the worst (or standard deviation to our statistically-minded friends), was likely lower than the 1920s and the 1880s. And although offense was way up in the 1990s, those guys face numerous competitive conditions (such as relief pitching) that made out-and-out domination more difficult than in previous eras.

—Eric

Institutional History

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