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Earl Averill

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All-Time HoME Leaders, Center Field – 21-40

As a Red Sox fan, I’ll forever love that 2004 team, which means I’ll forever love Johnny Damon. I was even okay when he went to the Yankees in 2006. And I was very happy when he finished his age-37 season in Tampa with a 109 OPS+ as well as positive value at the plate, on the bases, and avoiding double plays.

One thing that’s guaranteed, however, after someone’s age-37 season comes his age-38 season. And we know that almost all players are done by that age. Damon, coming off a 2.5 WAR season was left without a team until the Indians signed him in mid-April. His first game with Cleveland wasn’t until May 2, and he got off to a very slow start, slashing just .171/.261/.256 through the end of his first month. Things improved a little in June and in July, but it really appeared that Damon was done. As August rolled around, his line was just .222/.281/.329. But the truth is that Damon was getting a little unlucky with just a .239 BABIP, miles below his worst season. Had Damon – again, a 2.5-win player from the previous season – been given a full Spring Training and average luck, he might have had another 90 hits in 2012. That would have brought him to 2859.

Of course, there’s no way 2859 hits gets him to the Hall of Fame. But maybe a reasonable 2012 would have given him a 2013 contract. And with even 100 hits that year, we’d have likely seen a team sign him in 2014 to get him to 3,000 hits. While he wouldn’t have deserved it, I think those hits plus what might have been a top-25 finish in runs scored might have punched his ticket to Cooperstown.

For other greats of the game – some even better than Johnny Damon, if that’s possible – check out past posts in this series.

[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]

Center Field – 21-40

CF, 21-40

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

Andrew McCutchen is closest to the top-40. Then there’s Curtis Granderson, Adam Jones, Jacoby Ellsbury, Lorenzo Cain, and Carlos Gomez. In other words, future HoMErs at the position are Mike Trout, very young, or nonexistent.—Miller

Centerfield isn’t flush with young talent in its prime at this moment. With McCutchen’s fall from superstardom to mere averagedom, the only youngish guy with even half a chance would be Kevin Keirmaier, and he trails Gomez and even Denard Span. But you know what I think? Mookie Betts is probably the best young centerfielder in the game. But since the BoSox are lousy with slick fielding outfielders who could be good centerfielders, he’s “stuck” playing second-center at Fenway.—Eric

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

Aside from the fact that Mike Griffin was a complete mystery to me before we took up this project, I’d reckon Chet “The Jet” Lemon among our least conventional rankings. Well, sort of. He’s more conventional these days what with the sabrmetric revolution and all that. But anyone born prior to 1980 wouldn’t have thought of him as a borderline Hall guy, and no one born after that ever heard their sports-fan mentors talk about him either. He’s probably an All-Star season away from tiptoeing over the line. On the less positive side, the guy who hit .440 isn’t in our starting lineup, and we rank him behind Wally Berger, a guy who sounds like a 1950s sitcom character actor. Well, it turns out that .440 in 1894 just ain’t that impressive because the whole damn league hit .309 and the league scored about three more runs a game than it has for the last decade of our own times. Also, Kirby Puckett. We didn’t #MeToo him, though I personally don’t savor the idea of letting domestic abusers into our Hall, he did it to himself. Yeah, eye troubles and a Dennis Martinez fastball to the head didn’t help his case, but almost never walking, gaining weight over his career and killing his footspeed didn’t do much to push things along. But he got in on his first ballot, and Jim Edmonds got lost on his. They have facts, we have facts, I guess.—Eric

Willie Wilson! By my numbers, Willie Wilson would be a perfectly unobjectionable Hall of Famer. I can’t imagine anyone outside of the Kansas City area who would look to this ranking as anything other than lunacy though. Wilson wasn’t a good hitter. But forget that 1982 batting title. What Wilson had was amazing legs. He’s the only player in baseball history with at least 100 runs in the glove and 100 on the bases. That might not be as big a deal as I thought when I did the PI search at BBREF. See, only three players ever posted 100 runs on the bases. In addition to Wilson, it’s Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines. When we lower the rates to 75 runs in the field and on the bases, we add Ozzie Smith, Max Carey, Luis Aparicio, Kenny Lofton, and Willie Mays. Maybe you know something I don’t, but I don’t believe anyone ever, including the ten guys who gave him Hall votes in 2000, truly advocated for his election. I’m not doing that now, but I couldn’t offer a hearty objection if you did.—Miller

Where do we disagree with one another the most?

What do you know! We have an actual disagreement here. I think Cy Seymour is very close to the line (99), while Eric has him right on the line of a player we’d even consider (90). Part of this discrepancy is my use of consecutive seasons in my formula. Since Seymour’s peak seasons were consecutive, he propelled his teams to pennants at a level his organizations could count on, at least compared to other players of his ilk. Even if I dumped the consecutive measure, Seymour would only fall to #23 for me. And he’s still #34 for Eric.—Miller

He’s got a negative season due to bad pitching in his rookie year that complicates things. But mostly it’s that all of these guys fall awfully close together. I’ve got Seymour with a seven-year nonconsecutive peak of 39 WAR. I’ve got him at 47 career WAR. That’s not all that different than Larry Doby who is right above him (38/49) or Dale Murphy two slots above him (41/46). In fact it’s quite similar to Wally Berger (40/47). Berger gets some points from me for his high-dose rate of WAR per PA. He started his career late after a long time on the coast, and he pounded out a lot of excellent seasons. Seymour was a little more spread out. Hugh Duffy had a little more career, as did Chet Lemon and Johnny Damon who have similar peaks. Ditto Willie Wilson. It’s all little things, not one thing.

We may also disagree on Lenny Dykstra. In fact, I disagree with myself on him. I love Lenny Dykstra the player. I really don’t care for Dystra the person. So much fun to watch, but such a cad for reals.—Eric

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

Most of these twenty guys seem to have pretty stable rankings. But I find Brett Butler particularly interesting, so I’m just going to use this space for a brief diversion about him. He belongs to a very small family of hitters whose basic attributes are

  • played in the lively ball era
  • a pretty good to very good batting average
  • a really good eye
  • virtually no power, as expressed by their SLG being very close to or below their OBP
  • among the top 10 base stealers of his time.

Butler hit .290 for his career and walked 1129 times. He stole 558 bases, and his SLG was one point worse than his OBP. Adds up to a speed and OBP heavy 110 OPS+.

Here’s a table full of these guys

NAME            PA    AVG   OBP   SLG  OPS+  SB  SB%* Rbaser
===========================================================
Brett Butler   9545  .290  .377  .376  110  558  68%    37
Luke Appling  10254  .310  .399  .398  113  179  62%     0
Rich Ashburn   9736  .308  .396  .382  111  284  66%     9
Luis Castillo  7471  .290  .368  .351   92  370  72%    33
Stan Hack      8508  .301  .394  .397  119  165  N/A   - 9
Johnny Temple  6036  .284  .363  .351   92  140  74%     1
*or as much as is known

If Quilvio Veras had a better batting average or Willie Randolph had stolen more bases, they’d also be on this list.

Two Hall of Famers, one near Hall of Famer, plus Castillo and Temple. Two of these guys were known for spoiling two-strike pitches. Luke Appling hardly ever struck out and would just flick balls foul forever until he drew his walk or pinged one through the infield. Bill James related a story about Ashburn hitting a lady with a foul ball and hitting her again as she was carted away from the stands. These are pesky little fleas. They could really handle the bat, and they did everything they could do as offensive players to set the table and drive the other team bonkers.

Despite the use of their speed, however, many of them have strangely iffy baserunning numbers. Butler apparently advanced very well on batted balls, but a 68% stolen base rate in the modern game is terrible, especially for a guy with his speed. Same for Luis Castillo. In the 1980s–2010s, rates below break-even could be called why-bother. Rich Ashburn’s appalling low +9 Rbaser is shocking to me. The league stole around 55% to 60% during his times, so that’s still above par, but he must not have been great on advancement. Johnny Temple, what were you doing? Hack and Appling I’ll hold judgement on since BBREF hasn’t inputted all of Retrosheet’s prewar stats, but Appling’s 62% success rate was actually above average. And that’s the weird thing about these guys. For reasons beyond my understanding, they weren’t really great base stealers, and only two of them appear to have been good baserunners when they weren’t stealing…despite the fact that speed is one of their calling cards. It’s a strange little group that’s always puzzled me.—Eric

***

Next week, it’s Babe Ruth and everyone else as we get started on right field.

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Evaluating Negro Leagues Center Fielders, Part 1

[All MLEs updated 7/4/18 to include (a) new 1938 and 1947 data (b) new baserunning-runs estimates (c) new, more objective playing-time estimates]

No position in the Negro Leagues was a stacked with talent as centerfield. Which, when you think about it makes all kinds of sense. In leagues where the most talented players would later turn into outstanding major leaguers, and everyone else ranked from big-league regular to lower-minor-league fodder, the levels of talent and athleticism will vary considerably more than in the pro game we know today. Your best athletes would play shortstop if they threw with their right hand, centerfield if they threw lefty. Centerfielders such as as Willard Brown and Monte Irvin and threw right handed and still ended up in center after a break-in period at shortstop. And with still more good reason. Negro Leagues teams carried many fewer players than teams in organized baseball. They ran on tight budgets, and hauling, feeding, and hoteling a team of men was expensive. The fewer, therefore, the better. That meant that a lot of pitchers played the outfield on their off days. Especially right field. That means you need a centerfielder with excellent range because, hey, pitchers aren’t selected for their fielding ability. So the middle pasture oozed talent, and as we will see now, and again in a few months when we look at other high-profile centerfield candidates, probably no place else in the Negro Leagues did so much talent gather in one place. We refer you to our Major League Equivalencies (MLEs) for Negro Leagues batters for all the gory details on how we reframe Negro Leagues performance into an MLB context.

Cool Papa Bell

[Updated 4/3/18 with general improvements.]

If Satchel Paige ranks as the most well known and mythologized Negro Leaguer, then James “Cool Papa” Bell probably places second. Besides a cool and memorable nickname, we’ve discussed elsewhere the many tales of his blazing speed. The numbers may not quite support the lore, and that may well be debatable, but what info we have on Bell tells a story of his overall play that may seem a little backward compared to his legend.

Bell hit for a good average (.319 in the Negro Leagues), with walks (.386 OBP), and just enough power to keep the pitchers honest (.109 ISO). It sums up to a 121 OPS+, not bad for your leadoff man and centerfielder. Bell kept himself in great shape throughout his career, almost never missed a game, played for bloody ever, and maintained a high level of play late into the autumn of his playing days. Back to the base running again. What we do know about him shows that he stole 81% more often than his leagues, adjusted for his team’s tendencies to run. That’s very strong, but it is not near to all-time levels. Despite his stats not living up to the legend in terms of steals, we’ve given him a really good speed profile anyway, but nothing like Rickey, Raines, or Willie Wilson.

In the field, however, the data for Bell is all broken up, and it doesn’t jibe with the speedy reputation. The data we’re missing for him generally comes from the heart of his career, ages 23 and 24 then 26 to 28. He appears for the moment like a plus defender as a young player, but from 29 onward, decidedly below average. Without the several years of missing data, it’s problematic to make too hasty a call on that, but we’ve noted that pivot year in our MLEs and showed him as positive through age 28 and negative thereafter.

James "Cool Papa" Bell
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1922–1946
Destination: NL 1924–1943
Missing data: 1926, 1927, 1929–1931
Honors: Baseball Hall of Fame, Hall of Merit

Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
===========================================================================
1924  21 NL CF   330    4    1    0    -1   - 2    2   0.2   10   12   1.3
1925  22 NL CF   600   12    1    0    -1   - 3    8   0.8   19   27   2.6
1926  23 NL CF   640   15    1    0    -1   - 4   12   1.2   20   32   3.3
1927  24 NL CF   640   17    1    0    -1   - 3   14   1.4   20   34   3.5
1928  25 NL CF   650   22    1    0    -1   - 3   19   1.9   20   40   4.0
1929  26 NL CF   660   17    1    0    -1   - 3   15   1.3   21   35   3.2
1930  27 NL CF   660   16    1    0    -1   - 3   14   1.2   21   34   3.0
1931  28 NL CF   640   14    1    0    -1   - 2   12   1.3   20   32   3.4
1932  29 NL CF   650   14    1    0    -1   - 2   12   1.2   20   32   3.3
1933  30 NL CF   630    9    1    0    -1   - 2    7   0.8   20   27   3.1
1934  31 NL CF   650   11    1    0    -1   - 2   10   1.0   20   30   3.1
1935  32 NL CF   650   12    1    0    -1   - 2   11   1.1   20   31   3.1
1936  33 NL CF   590    0    1    0    -1   - 2  - 2  -0.2   18   17   1.7
1937  34 NL CF   640   12    1    0    -1   - 2   10   1.0   20   30   3.1
1938  35 NL CF   640   16    1    0    -1   - 1   15   1.6   20   35   3.7
1939  36 NL CF   510   16    1    0    -1   - 1   16   1.6   16   31   3.3
1940  37 NL CF   490   16    1    0    -1   - 1   16   1.6   15   31   3.3
1941  38 NL CF   410    8    1    0    -1   - 1    7   0.8   13   20   2.2
1942  39 NL CF   380    6    1    0    -1   - 1    6   0.7   12   18   2.1
1943  40 NL CF   350    8    1    0    -1     0    7   0.8   11   18   2.1
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
               11410  245   22    0   -17   -39  211  21.4  356  567  58.4

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 8th
Rbat: 87th
WAA: t-104th
WAR: 49th

With the information we have now, Bell looks more like Brett Butler or Johnny Damon than he does like an all-time great. That may change. With five years of data missing, and prime years at that, we could well find ourselves revising this MLE upward in times to come. We currently fill in his batting profile with a career-average performance. If as data rolls in his career average lifts because of strong peak-season batting lines, he could well become a much better candidate. Bell probably also suffers by dint of his player type and his times. What I mean is that double-play avoidance could add a couple wins or more to his ledger, a la Damon or Ichiro. But we don’t have his GIDP data, and we aren’t estimating it at this juncture so that our data looks like what his data would look like on BBREF. At a later time, however, we will revisit it as we work through our less well-known Negro Leagues candidates and start narrowing down the blackball backlog.

Willard Brown

[Note: Updated 1/14/18 to include 1946 data.]

[Updated 4/3/18 for park-factor correction.]

I’m not sure this MLE is even worth posting. It’s highly provisional, but I’ll share it so that you can see why I’m a little iffy on it.

Think of Willard Brown as Andre Dawson 1.0. He could hit the long ball. Everywhere he went he led the league in homers and/or set season records for them. His nickname was “Home Run.” If he’d come up in the 1980s or 1990s, they’d have called him “Downtown.” You know, you don’t hear people use that word in a baseball context very often any more. Used to be folks would say, “Brown took Paige downtown on a hanging slider” or something like that. Well, slang always changes. Anyway, he had light tower power. He could also run like the wind, and had a decent to good glove with a strong arm. Like Dawson, he also never saw a pitch he didn’t offer at. Walks weren’t his thing. And like Dawson, he lost his speed in mid-career, reducing him to a lesser, below average, player.

The big issue with MLEs for Brown, however, is that much of his career isn’t fully documented. His peak years with the Monarchs after his time in the service aren’t yet on the Negro Leagues Database. His year in the Canadian Border League (1950) is similarly missing from BBREF. God knows where his info and his league’s info are for his 1952 Dominican Summer League play. Well, that and some of his most dominant performances occurred in the Puerto Rican Winter League. For example, hitting 27 homers in a 60 game season. Those leagues haven’t yet made their way into any systematic database. So until we get more info, Brown’s case is open but doesn’t look very good.

Related to this and to his drop-off in play in his thirties is the offensive environments he played in. Brown played a lot in the minor leagues in the 1950s, mostly in the AA Texas League. From age 38—41 he hit 91 homers in 536 games, about 26 per 154 games. Not bad for an oldster. But when you discount for the quality of play at that level, and you do all the other adjustments necessary, his 351 runs created goes down to 234 in translation, lopping off a good third of his hitting value, and basically translating him to a very slightly below average MLB hitter. Which makes sense when you’re a late-thirties player who’s lost his speed and doesn’t walk. It’s precisely what happened to Andre Dawson. But these seasons are contributing to the known career average we use for missing seasons. So at this point, until we have more on his big years in the 1940s, this MLE looks pretty meh. I strongly suspect it will improve with time.

Willard Brown
Negro Leagues Stats | Minor League Stats | Bio
Career: 1935–1956
Destination: AL 1935–1955
Missing data: 1948-1950, 1952
Honors: Baseball Hall of Fame, Hall of Merit, Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame
Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA  Rrep RAR   WAR
===========================================================================
1935  20 AL  CF  290   14    0    0     2    -1   15   1.4   10   25   2.4
1936  21 AL  CF  430    9    1    0     3    -1   12   1.0   15   26   2.3
1937  22 AL  CF  630   33    1    0     4    -2   37   3.4   22   58   5.4
1938  22 AL  CF  620   29    1    0     4    -1   33   3.0   21   54   4.9
1939  24 AL  CF  600   29    1    0     4    -1   33   3.1   21   54   5.0
1940  25 AL  CF  580   21    1    0     4    -1   25   2.4   20   45   4.4
1941  26 AL  CF  610   18    1    0     3    -1   21   2.1   21   42   4.2
1942  27 AL  CF  610   27    1    0     2    -1   29   3.1   21   50   5.4
1943  28 AL  CF  610   23    1    0     1    -1   25   2.8   21   46   5.3
1944  29 AL  CF      MILITARY SERVICE: WORLD WAR II
1945  30 AL  CF      MILITARY SERVICE: WORLD WAR II
1946  31 AL  CF  590   13    1    0    -2    -1   11   1.2   20   31   3.5
1947  32 AL  CF  550    7    1    0    -3    -1    4   0.5   19   23   2.6
1948  33 AL  CF  600   10    1    0    -4    -1    7   0.7   21   27   2.8
1949  34 AL  RF  600    8    1    0     2    -6    5   0.5   21   25   2.6
1950  35 AL  RF  600   11    1    0     1    -6    7   0.7   21   28   2.7
1951  36 AL  RF  530    9    1    0     0    -5    5   0.5   18   23   2.4
1952  37 AL  RF  480    8    1    0     0    -5    4   0.4   16   20   2.3
1953  38 AL  RF  410    4    1    0    -1    -4    0   0.0   14   14   1.5
1954  39 AL  RF  300    0    0    0    -1    -3  - 3  -0.3   10    7   0.8
1955  40 AL  RF  260  - 2    0    0    -1    -3  - 5  -0.5    9    4   0.4
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                9900  272   16    1    19   -43  265  25.9  338  603  60.9

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 24th   
Rbat: 69th
WAA: 75th  
WAR: 47th

When we compared Brown to his leagues in stolen bases per opportunity, beginning about age 27, he lost his speed. So you can see that we project him as having average base running for several years and declining fielding numbers in center prior to a switch to right field. He played right late in his playing days in the Texas League.

Oscar Charleston

[Updated 4/3/18 with general improvements.]

As we mentioned when we discussed John Henry Lloyd, Oscar Charleston is one of the four players with the best case as the  Greatest Negro Leaguer of All Time. It’s not only that he had a long and very productive career, but as a peak performer, he’s essentially unmatched by any other position player that we’ve looked at so far. Charleston was a lefty thumper who could run, hit, go get the ball, draw walks, throw, and hit the long ball. At the beginning of his career, he played as shallow as anyone dared and stories abound about how he nonetheless caught everything hit behind him. At the plate, the big lefty terrorized the league to the tune of a 179 OPS+. He swiped 313 bags. For good measure he pitched some games too.

Most of all that great work happened by age 32. James Riley noted that Charleston put on weight as his career went along, losing a step or two afield and on the bases. His bat slowed as well. After age 32, he appears to be a shell of the player he was in his twenties, spending more and more time injured or at first base and contributing less and less. In this regard, Junior Griffey is something of a parallel. Griffey’s demise began after age 30, with injury and fitness being issues. He could still hit a little but the legs and glove had become liabilities even when he could take the field.

But Charleston was so good in his twenties and early thirties that we shouldn’t lose that part of the story in the telling. We’re showing 85 translated WAR through age 32. I’m not familiar with any person who scoff at that. Charleston could do it all and did, and the list of players with big-time talent whose bodies give out on them in their thirties is much lengthier than the list of those who don’t.

Oscar Charleston
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1915–1941
Destination: NL 1915–1936
Missing data: 1929
Honors: Baseball Hall of Fame, Baseball Hall of Merit 

Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield  Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
========================================================================
1915  18 NL  CF   10    0    0       0     0    0   0.0    0    0   0.1
1916  19 NL  CF  200    6    1     - 1   - 1    5   0.6    6   11   1.4
1917  20 NL  CF  310   12    1     - 1   - 2   10   1.2   10   19   2.4
1918  21 NL  CF  490   40    1     - 2   - 3   37   4.4   15   53   6.3
1919  22 NL  CF  520   38    1     - 2   - 3   35   4.0   16   51   6.1
1920  23 NL  CF  590   50    2     - 2   - 3   46   5.1   18   64   7.2
1921  24 NL  CF  620   65    2     - 2   - 3   62   6.1   19   81   8.1
1922  25 NL  CF  600   75    2     - 2   - 3   71   6.6   19   90   8.4
1923  26 NL  CF  610   56    2     - 2   - 3   53   5.0   19   72   7.0
1924  27 NL  CF  610   84    2     - 2   - 3   80   7.9   19   99   9.9
1925  28 NL  CF  630   44    2     - 2   - 3   40   3.7   20   60   5.7
1926  29 NL  LF  610   39    2       1   - 6   36   3.7   19   55   5.7
1927  30 NL  LF  610   37    2       1   - 6   34   3.5   19   53   5.4
1928  31 NL  LF  630   31    2       1   - 6   28   2.8   20   48   4.8
1929  32 NL  LF  610   30    2       1   - 6   27   2.5   19   46   4.2
1930  33 NL  1B  610  - 1    2       1   - 6  - 4  -0.4   19   15   1.3
1931  34 NL  1B  610   18    2       1   - 6   15   1.5   19   34   3.6
1932  35 NL  1B  600   14    2       1   - 6   11   1.1   19   29   3.0
1933  36 NL  1B  600   23    2       1   - 6   20   2.3   19   39   4.4
1934  37 NL  1B  440   13    1       1   - 4   10   1.1   14   24   2.5
1935  38 NL  1B  420    5    1       1   - 3    3   0.3   13   16   1.6
1936  39 NL  1B  240    4    1       0   - 2    3   0.3    7   10   1.0
------------------------------------------------------------------------
               11170  683   31     - 5   -87  623  63.1  348  971 100.0

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 9th 
Rbat: 11th 
WAA: 12th  
WAR: 12th

Yeah, that’ll play.

Charleston’s data on the Negro Leagues Database does not support a positive fielding rating for his centerfield range. I’ve chosen to use a positive, but not too positive, figure here as a nod to his defensive reputation. Particularly because we are missing numerous seasons of his centerfield play during the stretch where we are placing him there. His left field rating is based on even less data, but it and his right field data are both above average. His first base rating comes from 274 career games from age 33 onward where he was a little above average.

In general, this is the C.V. of a Hall level player, for sure.

Larry Doby

[Updated 4/3/18 with minor park/league corrections.]

Doby came up as a teenager, played a little in 1942. He started in 1943 and was an immediate sensation, then got called up by Uncle Sam after a handful of games in 1944. Back to the states in 1946, he starred for the Newark Eagles, then early in 1947 signed with the Indians. He never played a minor league game, but the Tribe used him only sparingly in ’47 and mostly for pinch running. Then in 1948, it’s off the races, and from opening day of 1948 he’s one of the best centerfielders in baseball for a decade before he collapsed in his early thirties.

As a little aside, Doby, in a sense, inherited Earl Averill’s role as the great, lefty-swinging All-Star centerfielder for the Indians. Doby played top-level ball from age 18 onward and tailed off badly after age 32. Averill got a very late start to his career and didn’t reach the big leagues until age 27 and starred for the Tribe for years, tailing off at age 37. Fairly similar players:

  • Doby: 6299 PA, 253 HR, 871 BB, 47 SB, 136 OPS+, 269 Rbat, 13 Rfield, 30.6 WAA, 49.6 WAR
  • Averill: 7221 PA, 238 HR, 774 BB, 70 SB, 133 OPS+, 318 Rbat, -32 Rfield, 22.8 WAA, 48 WAR

If you took Doby’s career through age 32 (31 wAA, 47 WAR) and added the rest of Averill’s career from 33 onward (8 WAA, 19 WAR), you’d end up with one hell of a ballplayer: 39 WAA and 66 WAR’s worth. His name might be Duke Snider (35 WAA, 67 WAR) or Kenny Lofton (38 WAA, 68 WAR) or Reggie Smith (35 WAA, 65 WAR) or Billy Hamilton (40 WAA, 63 WAR). Based on their MLB stats alone, neither Doby nor Averill quite makes the Hall of Miller and Eric. Together they’d be among the top 15 to 20 centerfielders ever.

The question for Doby is whether additional understanding of his Negro Leagues data helps enough to get him over the line for the Hall of Miller and Eric.

Larry Doby
Negro Leagues Stats | Major League Stats | Bio
Career: 1942–1959
Destination: AL 1942–1959
Missing data: 1947
Honors: Baseball Hall of Fame, Hall of Merit, Hall of Stats

Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA  Rrep RAR   WAR
===========================================================================
1942  18 AL  CF   10    0    0    0     0    0     0   0.0    0    1   0.1
1943  19 AL  CF  200    7    0    0     1    0     9   1.0    6   15   1.7
1944  20 AL  CF   20    1    0    0     0    0     1   0.1    1    2   0.2
1945  21 AL  CF           MILITARY SERVICE: WORLD WAR II
1946  22 AL  CF  570   33    1    0     4   -1    37   4.0   18   54   6.1
1947  23 AL  CF  520   35    1    0     3   -1    39   4.2   16   55   6.0
1948  24 AL  CF  499   19    1    3    11   -3    32   3.2   16   47   4.6
1949  25 AL  CF  637   22   -1    2     0   -3    20   2.0   20   39   3.8
1950  26 AL  CF  609   45    2    2     4   -1    52   4.9   19   71   6.7
1951  27 AL  CF  551   40    3    2     4   -1    48   4.8   17   65   6.4
1952  28 AL  CF  611   41    3    1     5   -1    49   5.2   19   68   7.1
1953  29 AL  CF  617   26    1    3   - 6   -1    23   2.3   19   42   4.3
1954  30 AL  CF  630   22    1    2    10   -1    34   3.6   20   54   5.7
1955  31 AL  CF  560   16    1    2     0   -1    18   2.0   17   36   3.7
1956  32 AL  CF  619   22    2    3     5   -1    31   3.1   19   50   4.9
1957  33 AL  CF  477   17    0    1   - 9   -1     7   0.7   15   22   2.2
1958  34 AL  CF  276   10    1    0   - 3   -1     7   0.7    8   15   1.5
1959  35 AL  RF  124  - 5   -1    1   - 7   -2   -13  -1.3    4  - 9  -1.0
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                7530  349   16   22   22   -19   393  40.5  235  626  63.9

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 113th 
Rbat: 42nd 
WAA: 26th  
WAR: 36th

With Doby’s 1946 stats now available on the Negro Leagues Database, we see a nice uptick in our initial estimate for 1946. Doby came back from the war swinging. It helps. A lot.

Because Doby needs the help. Even his Negro Leagues play, he’s fighting to reach the borderline. A telling number is 7,530. That’s a pretty small number of plate appearances for a HoMEr, and it hurts his ability to rack up the kind of overall value that would boost his cause up a little.

* * *

Next time out we’ll look at more centerfielders, this time including Pete Hill, Alejandro Oms, Turkey Stearnes, and Cristobal Torriente.

Mount Rushmore, Cleveland Indians

Nap Lajoie, 1906Because they came so close but didn’t pull through last season, the 1948 and 1920 champs have the longest current drought in the game. Known as the Blues in 1901, the Bronchos in 1902, and the Naps from 1903 through 1914, the Indians are the only team, I believe, whose Rushmore all played the same position. And much to my surprise, they’re the third best team in AL history in winning percentage.

Guys It’s Not

By WAR, the greatest Indian ever is Nap Lajoie. However, he played parts of eight years with AL and NL Philadelphia clubs. Second on the Indian list is Red Sox great Tris Speaker. And fourth is another who played for the Red Sox, Lou Boudreau. Stan Coveleski is fifth on the Indian list, but he played for the A’s, Sens, and Yanks. Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome also put up great numbers while in Cleveland, but they both played everywhere. Earl Averill held on with the Tigers and Braves, and Joe Sewell was a Yankee for three years.

Al Rosen, 1951Al Rosen is the best hitter in Indian history never to play elsewhere, posting 32.6 WAR over seven full seasons before retiring because of issues with his back and legs. He’s 23rd in Indian history in WAR, but that’s not enough. There were four Cleveland pitchers who topped him, making them the only team without a hitter on their Rushmore.

Indian Mount Rushmore

Bob Feller: Rapid Robert was a hit after joining the Indians at age 17 in 1936. If we replace the three seasons and the one partial season he missed due to WWII with the average of the two years before and the two full years after he left, he moves from 63.6 WAR to an insane 84.4 WAR. That would move him from a tie for 144th with Richie Ashburn and Billy Williams to 53rd, just ahead of Pedro Martinez and Ken Griffey. I’m not saying this would have happened, just giving an idea about what might have been.

Bob Lemon, 1951Bob Lemon: With 48.8 WAR, Lemon is the sixth best Indian ever. Of course, less than 77% of Lemon’s value was on the mound. He was truly an excellent hitter, adding 0.6 WAR to 1.9 WAR every year from 1947-1956 at the plate. From 1948-1950 he averaged six homers and 22 ribbies with a .334 OBP. With just pitching value, there are only two years when he threw like an All-Star. He’s in the Hall, which is quite a surprise given that Hall voters must look at pitcher offense less than I do, and Lemon is only 117th all-time among pitchers, right between Frank Viola and Ron Guidry.

Mel Harder: Eleventh on the all-time Indian WAR chart, Harder was a better pitcher than Lemon, putting up 47.9 WAR on the mound but giving back 4.2 at the dish, for 43.7 total WAR. During his 1932-1935 peak, he trailed only Carl Hubbell and Dizzy Dean in WAR among hurlers. Expanding things to 1939, and only Lefty Grove also gets past him. We’re looking at a star here.

Addie Joss, 1911Addie Joss: With similar star power to Harder, Joss nevertheless is in the Hall. Tied with him on the Indian WAR list with 43.7, Joss and his 160 wins are in the Hall due to a 1.89 career ERA. Even though he played only nine seasons, the 1977 Board of Directors passes a special resolution to waive the ten-year rule for him. There was no good reason for that decision. BBREF neutralizes Joss’ career ERA at 2.88, still a fine number, but c’mon. Imagine 170 wins and a 2.88 ERA in the last fifty years. Such a pitcher would have no chance at the Hall. If he pitched in the run environment of, say, 2004, his ERA would be 3.75. Kevin Brown pitched around that time. He finished with 211 wins and a 3.28 ERA, and he hasn’t sniffed the inside of Cooperstown.

My Indian Rushmore

Bob Feller

Nap Lajoie: Yes, he had a significant enough career with the A’s, but he’s Cleveland’s all-time leader in WAR, and he had nine of his ten best years by WAR with the Indians.

Lou Boudreau: I’m not going to hold his short period of time in Boston against him. Speaker played in Boston too, but he had quite a significant career there. Each of Boudreau’s ten best seasons were with Cleveland.

Kenny Lofton: I’m skipping a couple of guys on Cleveland’s all-time WAR list to get to him, namely Stan Coveleski and Bob Lemon. My favorite Lofton memory is how he ran the bases like a brilliant madman in the 1995 playoffs, tripling twice and stealing 11 bases in the ALCS and WS.

Tune in next week for a look at the Cincinnati Reds.

Miller

RIP, Players Falling Off the 1956 Ballot

Averill was elected to the Hall, but the HoME didn't consider him until long after his death. Luckily for him, he didn't need to make arrangements to not be part of our list of greats.

Averill was elected to the Hall, but the HoME didn’t consider him until long after his death. Luckily for him, he didn’t need to make arrangements to not be part of our list of greats. We killed him off ourselves.

What’s stranger – writing obituaries for players who have long been dead or writing obituaries for players who are actually alive? We’re getting to the point that players who we’re metaphorically killing might still be with us in reality.

After each election, once we realize that there are certain players who will never receive our vote for the HoME, we pay tribute to them through these obituaries. We remove them from intellectual consideration, though not actual consideration, so that our process going forward is a bit easier. Their tribute is a brief write-up in this column along with a little trivia about their careers or lives.

There were 733 players we considered for the HoME as we began. With twelve elections complete, we’ve elected 68 and put to rest 186 others (Only 185 of those players really count – last election I wrote an obituary for Ray Chapman, who I confused with Ben Chapman. Ben passes today). As you’ll note by looking over our RIP category and reading below, we now have 480 players to consider for our remaining 141 spots in the HoME. In other words, we can elect about 29.5% of the remaining players we’re considering.

And after each election, I’ll offer the following chart to keep you apprised of our progress.

 

 

Year   Carried       New       Considered     Elected   Obituaries  Continuing to
         Over      Nominees   this Election                         Next Election
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  1st election    54           54            3          18           33

Dead in 1956

At his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1975, 34 years after his career ended, Earl Averill noted that had he been elected after his death, he made arrangements to keep his name out of the Hall. I don’t know whether that’s interesting because of how ungrateful he was, or how impossible his arrangement was. On a less awful note for the centerfielder who was about as good as Fred Lynn, he broke Dizzy Dean’s toe with a liner in the 1937 All-Star Game. Yep, that’s the more positive of the two things.

Tommy Bond won 40 games in back-to-back seasons in 1877 and 1878. In the first of those years, he also won the pitching triple crown. He is also the first player born in Ireland to play in the majors, and he was the last person living from the National League’s inaugural 1876 season. After throwing more innings than Curt Schilling or Kevin Brown did in their entire careers before the age of 25, Bond wouldn’t win another game in the majors, unless you count the Union Association of 1884 as a major league.

English Broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson once said, “Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” Clarkson is right, and Ben Chapman is a testament to this assertion. Chapman was fast. Sort of. He led the AL in stolen bases four times. However, he also led the league in caught stealing four times, three of them when he was also leading the league in steals. That’s the sort of thing that kills you as a player. Chapman is better known for being one who vocally and incessantly opposed the integration of baseball and Jackie Robinson’s presence. That opposition, strangely, may have been a good thing, as is said to have it rallied the Dodgers around Robinson and increased national sympathy for his plight.

Among pitchers with at least 100 wins, nobody since the close of the National Association won at a greater rate than Spud Chandler. For the Yankees, this righty put of a 109-43 mark in a career that spanned 1937-1947. Before he entered the Army in 1944, Spurgeon Ferdinand Chandler took home MVP honors in a depleted American League in 1943 when he posted a 20-4 mark and led the circuit with a miniscule 1.64 ERA.

While Chandler was taking home AL honors in 1943, it was Mort Cooper who won the NL MVP one year earlier. The righty starter went 22-7 that season, hurled 10 shutouts and posted a 1.78 ERA. Perhaps his career highlight was the Game Five shutout he threw for his Cardinals against the Browns in the 1944 World Series. Giving up only seven hits and fanning a dozen, Cooper brought the Cards to within a game of the title that they’d win the next day.

Frank Crosetti was a member of the New York Yankees from 1932-1968, the first seventeen of those years as a player and the last twenty as a coach. Crosetti was a decent defender, but his greatest skill was at the plate. The man knew how to get hit by a pitch, leading the AL in that category eight times. Of note, only Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio own more World Series rings as a player.

The skills of Roy Cullenbine weren’t properly appreciated when he played. At age 33 in 1947 he played his final season and smacked 24 home runs to go with 137 walks. With walks in 22 consecutive games that season he topped Ted Williams’ record and still holds the mark today. His OBP from 1941-1947 was .415, yet no team played him after his 1947 release by the Tigers.

On May 24, 1935, Paul Derringer started and led his Reds to a complete game victory over Joe Bowman and the Phillies in the first night game in MLB history. Otherwise, Derringer was a pretty good pitcher, winning 20 games on four occasions on his way to a 223-212 career mark. Derringer wasn’t a great World Series pitcher, compiling a 2-4 record in his career, but in 1940 he was clutch. Trashed by the Tigers in the opener, Derringer came back with a complete game victory in the fourth game. On the mound once again for the deciding seventh game, he faced Bobo Newsom in a pitcher’s duel. The Reds trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh. A pair of doubles, a sacrifice, and a sacrifice fly later, and the Reds took the 2-1 lead that would be the final. Derringer threw another complete game, and his Reds won their first World Series since 1919.

Larry French was a lefty knuckleballer who won 197 games in his 14 years in the show. He made the All-Star team in 1940 and pitched two innings for the National League, setting up for NL “closer,” Carl Hubbell. He allowed only a single to Luke Appling and recorded a pair of strikeouts. He fanned Bob Feller, who struck out in 39% of his career at-bats, and Ray Mack, whose 5.2 career WAR must make him one of the least valuable All-Stars of all time.

Lonny Frey lived to age 99. That was more notable than anything he did during his playing days, really. In fairness, he did make three All-Star teams and win an NL stolen base title for the Reds in 1940. Despite coming to the plate 21 times in the World Series, “Junior” never managed to get a hit.

Some records are a big deal. Cal Ripken played in 2.632 consecutive games, for example. Some records are less of a big deal. Augie Galan in 1935 became the first of three players in the game’s history to play at least 150 games in a season and not hit into a single double play. This record’s significance is mitigated even more by the fact that Galan did hit into a triple play that year.

A career Indian who spent 20 years in Cleveland, Mel Harder never pitched in the World Series. But when the spotlight was brightest, Harder was at his best. During his four All-Star Games, Harder pitched thirteen innings without allowing a run. His best performance was his first, in 1934. After the NL pounded Lefty Grove and Red Ruffing for seven runs in four innings, Harder entered, allowed only a ninth inning double to Billy Herman, and took the win for the AL.

It’s not really such a big deal to hit 20 2B, 3B, and HR in the same season, but it is noteworthy. In 1941 Indian right fielder Jeff Heath became the first American Leaguer to do so. Heath was an impressive and well-rounded hitter, retiring with a 139 OPS+ – Norm Cash, Reggie Jackson, David Ortiz territory. He simply wasn’t healthy enough to put up the kind of numbers needed for the HoME, only four times in fourteen seasons topping 126 games played.

Tommy Henrich could hit. He retired with an OPS+ of 132, which puts him in the company of other sluggers like Rocky Colavito, Juan Gonzalez, and Jose Canseco. The highlight of Henrich’s career, one that saw him win six rings as a member of the New York Yankees had to have been the first game of the 1949 World Series. In a scoreless tie, Henrich took Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe deep for the game’s only run. It was the first walk-off homer in World Series history.

Pinky Higgins hit .292 in a fourteen-year career that saw him make three All-Star teams. He later served as manager and general manager of the Boston Red Sox. But the end of his life wasn’t so rosy. In 1968 Higgins killed one and injured three others in a drunk driving accident. He was sentenced to four years but was paroled after only two months. Two days after his parole, he died of a heart attack.

A campaign to have Ken Keltner inducted into the Hall of Fame led Bill James to develop his Keltner List, a forerunner of our Saberhagen List. In short, James found that Keltner wasn’t Hall material. And though we find that he’s not HoME material either, he’ll forever be known for the two impressive defensive plays he made on balls hit by Joe DiMaggio with “The Yankee Clipper” was vying to extend his hitting streak to 57 games.

Joe Kuhel was a left-handed first baseman who played eighteen years in the majors for the Senators and White Sox, not a cartoon dog. He was known as an excellent defender, but he probably wasn’t. And frankly, he wasn’t much more than average at the plate either. He did hit three triples in a game once, which no player in AL history has topped.

For no good reason, I sometimes confuse Thornton Lee with author Thornton Wilder. Less of a writer and more of a lefty starting pitcher, Lee won 20 games and an ERA title for the White Sox in 1941. He and his son Don hold a record of sorts. They’re the only father and son to each give up a home run to the same player – Ted Williams.

Known as “The Nashville Narcissus,” Red Lucas put in 15 seasons as a National League starting pitcher, winning 157 games along the way. Though a starting pitcher, Lucas’ legacy is as a hitter. David Gassko, in an interesting article at The Hardball Times, calls Lucas the second greatest hitting pitcher of all time. He was such a talented hitter that he retired with the record (now #11) for most pinch hits in a career. No slouch as a pitcher, he led the NL in complete games three times and shutouts once.

Frank McCormick was a giant of a man. That’s exactly how I’d start my story if I were trying to create a modern-day Paul Bunyan, unless that territory has already been covered by this guy. McCormick was actually only 6’4” and a svelte 205 pounds. He made eight All-Star teams and won the 1940 NL MVP, though I can’t really explain why either happened. More positively, he led the NL in hits three consecutive years, which is something only he, Rogers Hornsby, and Ginger Beaumont have done.

A righty starter and occasional reliever, Claude Passeau won 162 games over thirteen seasons. He lost a pair of All-Star Games and struggled mightily in the last World Series game won by the Cubs. However, just three days earlier, he had one of the most brilliant outings in World Series history. In the Game Three, Passeau gave the Cubs a 2-1 advantage when he shut out the Tigers. The only blemishes on his record that day were a second inning single to Rudy York and a sixth inning walk to Bob Swift.

With three All-Star games to his credit and a twenty win season, Schoolboy Rowe was a decent enough pitcher. He won 158 games. The best day of his career had to have been the second game of the 1934 World Series. It was his first of six starts in the Series and his only win. And it was a pretty incredible performance, as the righty went all 12 innings to guide his Tigers over the visiting Cardinals.

From the pages of “it’s all downhill from here”, Senator shortstop Cecil Travis put up five hits in his first major league game at age 19 in 1933. He did accumulate another 1539 hits, and he led the AL in that category in 1941. Plus, he left the game as a .314 career hitter. But a HoME-worthy career, his wasn’t. Hey, he does have a Bronze Star to show for his military service, so not all is lost.

Hal Trosky put up some big numbers in a relatively short career. In ten full(ish) seasons, he reached 25 home runs and 100 runs batted in six times. His career highlight was 1936 when the first baseman his 42 out of the park and drove in a league-leading 162 to go with a .343/.382/.644 line. Pitchers had trouble stopping him, but migraine headaches got the best of him. He was basically done at age 28.

Dixie Walker made five All-Star teams, won a batting title, a triples title, and a RBI title. Still, he remains better known today as a player who, when the Dodgers announced Jackie Robinson would be coming to the majors in 1947, wrote a letter to Branch Rickey asking to be traded. Whether he was only doing what is expected of a guy called “Dixie” who grew up in the segregationist south is up for debate. There’s sufficient evidence that he supported Robinson later, and at least he spoke well of his teammate in public on occasion.

In 1946, the seven-time All-Star, Rudy York became the third player and one of just thirteen in history to hit two grand slams in one game. He was also quite well remembered during the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run chase in 1998. Until Sosa broke his mark in June of that season by hitting 20 long balls, York held the record with his 18 in the month of August, 1937.

That’s all for now. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those who have made it into the HoME, and check back here after the 1961 election for more obituaries.

Miller

How the Hall Failed: The Roaring Twenties, Thirties, and Veterans Committee

This may or may not be all of the players the Hall's Veterans Committee inducted from 1970-1984

This may or may not be all of the players the Hall’s Veterans Committee inducted from 1970-1984.

One of the tenets of the HoME, which certainly hasn’t applied to the Hall, is that we strive for balance by position and by era. We can debate, as Eric and I have and will, whether balance by era is a relatively equal number of players or if it’s an even distribution in terms of plate appearances and innings pitched. What can’t be argued is that the Hall’s balance makes any sense.

In the past in this series, we’ve looked at individual players and tried to explain how they found their way into the Hall. Today, we’re going to consider some selections of the Hall’s Veterans Committee for the fifteen years starting in 1970. When the Hall makes a mistake with individual players, it’s upsetting. However, when the Hall makes a mistake with a generation of players, it’s even worse.

In a story that’s been told many times, Frankie Frisch, and to a lesser extent Bill Terry, ran the Vets Committee for years, and they helped to enshrine many of their less-than-deserving teammates and other contemporaries. But it wasn’t just Frisch and Terry who helped to over-represent the era. This craziness continued even after Frisch’s death in 1973.

Anyway, rather than play the blame game, let’s check out the chart below and then discuss impact.

Year  Player          Career      Teammates                             Comparable
1970  Earle Combs     1924-1935                                         Al Oliver
1970  Jesse Haines    1918-1937   Frisch, 1927-1937                     Mike Hampton
1971  Dave Bancroft   1915-1930   Frisch, 1920-1923; Terry, 1923        Bert Campaneris
1971  Chick Hafey     1924-1937   Frisch, 1927-1931                     Rico Carty
1971  Harry Hooper    1909-1925                                         Jack Clark
1971  Rube Marquard   1908-1925                                         Mike Boddicker
1972  Lefty Gomez     1930-1943                                         Mark Gubicza
1972  Ross Youngs     1917-1926   Frisch, 1919-1926; Terry, 1923-1926   Bobby Murcer
1973  George Kelly    1915-1932   Frisch, 1919-1926; Terry, 1923-1926   Derrek Lee
1974  Jim Bottomley   1922-1937   Frisch, 1927-1932                     Cecil Cooper
1975  Earl Averill    1929-1941                                         Fred Lynn
1976  Fred Lindstrom  1924-1936   Frisch, 1924-1926; Terry, 1924-1932   Terry Pendleton
1979  Hack Wilson     1923-1934   Frisch, 1923-1925; Terry, 1923-1925   Brady Anderson
1980  Chuck Klein     1928-1944                                         Ken Singleton
1982  Travis Jackson  1922-1936   Terry, 1923-1936                      Nomar Garciaparra
1984  Rick Ferrell    1929-1947                                         Jason Kendall

What you see above is a bunch of undeserving Hall of Famers, all from about the same era. Quibble if you will about Harry Hooper’s incredible defense. Or maybe you’re a Chuck Klein guy. It doesn’t really matter. The argument here isn’t about individual players for whom you could make a case. Rather, it’s about an era being way over-represented in Cooperstown.

We either see a Hall bloated by a dozen and a half players, or we see a Hall that has misrepresented several different eras in the game’s history.

What would the Hall be like if we subtracted those guys and added Bob Boone, Frank White, Don Money, Greg Luzinski, Amos Otis, Dave Parker, Vida Blue, and Jon Matlack? It would probably be a little better. And the representation across eras would improve.

Take a look at the chart below. It shows the number of Hall of Famers who made plate appearances in a given season. We should expect a relatively even distribution. Maybe the recent years should have fewer representatives because the voters are still sorting out their careers and because AL pitchers basically didn’t hit from 1973-1996. Otherwise, the distribution should be relatively even, right?

How the Hall Failed, Frisch and Terry, IIDon’t have the eyesight of Ted Williams? Click here.

There’s nothing close to an even distribution. What you see, I think, is astonishing. Every year from 1923-1937 there are at least 40 Hall of Famers coming to the plate. In no other season in baseball history do we see that many, even though we had integration, expansion, more expansion, even more expansion, and additional groups of players who were scouted. Were players just better from 1923-1937? Hardly.

By adding Vida Blue, Don Money, and company, I’d just be shifting the problem, right? Actually, by one way of looking at things, that’s not even true. A better way to consider distribution, perhaps, is the percentage of trips to the plate each season by Hall of Famers. It can be argued that we shouldn’t see the same raw number of Hall of Famers in a season. Rather, we should be equally likely to see a Hall of Famer playing in an individual game at any point in history.

How the Hall Failed, Frisch and Terry IIIStop squinting, click here.

Let’s look at some select seasons to see the problems the Veterans Committee has caused.

Year    Percentage of PA     Comments
          in the Hall   
1871        3.19%            The first season of the National Association.
1880       10.40%
1890        8.46%
1900       21.59%            NL collapsed from 12 to 8, increasing the % of HOFers.
1910       10.28%
1915        7.41%
1920       13.06%            The spike is getting started.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1925       20.56%            The spike is here and lasts for a decade.
1926       21.78%
1927       22.01%
1928       22.73%
1929       23.97%
1930       21.36%
1931       21.26%
1932       22.32%
1933       23.16%
1934       21.25%
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1940       14.07%            The return to normalcy begins.
1945        4.96%            The best players are off at war.
1950       12.54%
1955       13.62%
1960       13.40%
1965       10.67%
1970        9.36%
1975        8.10%
1980        7.15%
1985        7.84%
1990        6.33%
1995        3.57%
2000        1.13%

Clearly there’s a tremendous peak from 1925-1934. And if we shifted some of their plate appearances to the 1970s via guys like Bob Boone and Frank White, we would actually improve the historical distribution by plate appearances.

Our historical norm is 8.93%. If we eliminate plate appearances after 1995, which aren’t yet properly represented in the Hall anyway, we see that 11.15% of all plate appearances are enshrined. And if we eliminate our decade from 1925-1934, we see 10.22% of plate appearances in the Hall. That’s the real baseline, 10.22%. And that number is higher than any year after 1968.

Basically, fans in the 20s and 30s were incredibly lucky – they were seeing Hall of Famers twice as frequently as we are. And fans after 1968, well, they haven’t really seen so many great players.

Of course, I jest.

What this means for the construction of the HoME, as we’ve already seen, is that a bunch of guys who played in 1931, for example, aren’t going to make it. We’ve already killed off people like Jesse Haines, Ross Youngs, Earle Combs, Jim Bottomley. And there are more still to come. What this also means, since we plan for the HoME to have the same size population as the Hall, is that players of a more recent vintage will take their place.

No, I’m not talking about Greg Luzinski and Jon Matlack, but I expect plenty from that era to enter the HoME. Who? Well, you’ll have to check back here to find out.

Miller

Institutional History

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