Hall of Fame Index: Shortstop Tiers

We took a little unplanned break between articles there. Life often has ways of derailing our plans, but we continue with the study of the top 50 players at each position and their split into tiers. The Hall of Fame Index itself has been literally decades in the making with numerous iterations along the way. However, the guarding principles behind have been the same at every step. We want to refine debate. There should be no end to the debate because no system can account for every variation or argument along the way.

When we get to tier three and four, we see numerous players that fans and historians alike have argued passionately for. Wisdom often comes the hard way and I have learned the hard way not to piss on the notions of men and women who feel that way about a player. I think the analytical crowd has done itself a disservice when it pokes fun at people that don’t see the game through the same prism. As someone that has traveled through both worlds I can see the merits of both.

Keep in mind when we look at tier one that we are looking at mostly Hall of Famers. We should stand up and take notice at those that aren’t in because it means they are either no longer eligible or they should be in. When the new Veterans Committee considers its candidates it should look at tier one players first and foremost.

Tier One

 CareerPeakTotal
Honus Wagner (B)399.9259.0658.9
Alex Rodriguez328.9224.1553.0
Cal Ripken (B)273.8188.5462.3
Arky Vaughan (V)216.7186.7403.4
George Davis (V)248.5146.7395.2
Robin Yount (B)228.4159.9388.3
Bill Dahlen231.7151.1382.8
Derek Jeter228.1153.5381.6
Luke Appling (B)222.8145.9368.7
Barry Larkin (B)206.8151.2358.0
Lou Boudreau (B)182.9172.1355.0
Ozzie Smith (B)209.5144.1353.6
Ernie Banks (B)196.2157.1353.3
Alan Trammel (V)198.0150.8348.8
Joe Cronin (B)199.6148.5348.1
Pee Wee Reese (V)190.4155.1345.5

For our purposes we should probably focus on the guys not in. Both ARod and Jeter will be on the ballot soon and at least one is an automatic. In fact, Jeter might become the second unanimous selection from that same Yankee team. As we all know, Arod’s story is not nearly as simple. Since he admitted to using steroids and was suspended for that “crime” he likely will not be admitted in his first try. Fair? Fair is a four-letter word in these parts. It seems rather obvious that he would have been Hall of Fame caliber with or without PEDs, but that puts him in the same boat at Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. That is, we have to consider the moral and realistic implications.

I generally hate the “if…then” argument when it comes to the Hall of Fame, but it is pretty apt in Bill Dahlen’s case. If George Davis is a Hall of Famer then Dahlen should be as well. Both played in the same era and put up similar value and real numbers. Davis’ cause was championed by Bill James in his book, “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame.” Maybe he got his momentum from there. Suffice it to say, this blog won’t have the same juice, but a man can dream can’t he?

Tier Two

 CareerPeakTotal
Jack Glasscock173.9139.4313.4
Bert Campaneris154.0135.0289.0
Joe Tinker (V)160.2127.3287.5
Joe Sewell (V)157.2130.2287.4
Vern Stephens147.1134.1281.2
Jim Fregosi145.1133.9279.0
Dave Bancroft (V)151.5122.2273.7
Miguel Tejada144.6128.6273.2
Jimmy Rollins156.2116.5271.7
Art Fletcher135.8133.3269.1
Luis Aparicio (B)163.5104.5268.0

Data rarely ever comes out neatly, so when we split guys into tiers here, we are doing it crudely. In point of fact, Glasscock belongs in a tier by himself. This presents a bit of a dilemma as it pertains to whether he deserves support for the Hall of Fame. Keep in mind, we are asking whether someone is the most qualified candidate at his position and not whether they are simply Hall of Famers. Dahlen is more qualified, but arguments could be made for both players. The question comes down to how many shortstops do you want from the 19thcentury in the Hall of Fame.

From there, the list is pretty short and pretty predictable as it pertains to the kind of names you would expect. All of the players out of the Hall of Fame in tier two have definite points in their favor. Depending on the team you follow, you may be partial to one or another. Rollins and Tejada even have MVP awards in their favor. You will notice that the distance between tier two and tier three is not significant. That tends to work against some of these guys as there is just not enough distance to say this guy should be in and this guy should be out.

This brings us to the guys in on the list. You’ll notice that three of the four are Veterans Committee selections. Again, I reiterate the previous point. Are they Hall of Famers? That’s a loaded question. Tinker has an MVP award and Sewell may be the greatest contact hitter ever. They have points in their favor. Were they the most qualified players not in the Hall of Fame? Clearly not. Aparicio represents one of the rare BBWAA outliers. Again, was he a mistake? That’s a matter of opinion, but he clearly doesn’t fit the profile of a typical writers’ selection.

Tier Three

 CareerPeakTotal
Tony Fernandez144.8112.5257.3
Nomar Garciaparra129.5127.5257.0
Hughie Jennings (V)130.0123.6253.6
Phil Rizzuto (V)128.3124.0252.3
Rabbit Maranville (B)145.7103.8249.5
Dave Concepcion133.6114.4248.0
Travis Jackson (V)132.2114.0246.2
Hanley Ramirez128.0117.6245.6
Jose Reyes131.2112.0243.2
Roger Peckinpaugh134.2108.5242.7

The index has its limitations and one of those limitations is dealing with situations where there are natural exceptions. Rizzuto lost three seasons serving his country in World War II. In his case, those happened to be prime seasons. Let’s be conservative and say he would have been a four-win player during those three seasons. Since we have three sources in the platform, that would be the equivalent 36 wins on the career value side. That makes him a solid tier two shortstop even if we don’t add to his peak value. Unfortunately, we cannot add to what isn’t there, so we just accept the fact that exceptions should be made.

The other three represent what we normally see from tier three Hall of Famers. They are a mixture of flawed players that got support because they either put up huge seasons (Jennings) or were part of a dynasty where they got support beyond what was warranted (Jackson). That leaves another curious writers’ selection in Maranville. We can only assume it is due to his stellar reputation as a fielder. That of course will be a precursor to another debate we will reference soon.

Perhaps, the Hall of Famers in the group become easier to categorize when we look at those not in the Hall of Fame. Ramirez and Reyes are known to everyone. Ramirez is still active and Reyes would like to be, but couldn’t find a home this season. They were great players for stretches and good players for longer stretches, but both have significant flaws. Ramirez couldn’t field his position and Reyes’ peak was just too short. The same kinds of things could be said of our Hall of Famers, but the Veterans Committee chose to overlook those flaws. Occasionally, people ask about guys like Concepcion because they played on great teams. We reiterate the point until it becomes engrained. Whether or not he is a Hall of Famer is not the question we should be asking. Is he the most qualified shortstop out of the Hall of Fame? I think we know the answer to that question.

Tier Four

 CareerPeakTotal
Jay Bell124.1115.3239.4
Troy Tulowitzli119.9119.4239.3
Rico Petrocelli119.6118.9238.5
Maury Wills126.0112.3238.3
Herman Long131.2107.0238.2
Omar Vizquel144.590.5235.0
Donie Bush122.3110.8233.1
Alvin Dark123.9108.5232.4
Dick Bartell131.599.7231.2
Ed McKean121.2106.6227.8
Dick Groat116.2106.6222.8
Rafael Furcal117.396.0213.3
Mark Belanger108.2104.2212.4

Ironically, the careers of Rabbit Maranville and Omar Vizquel are eerily similar. They both enjoyed long careers where they had stellar defensive reputations and both were occasionally solid with the bat. Bill James developed similarity scores as a way of doing what we are doing here with the tiers. No one in their right mind would claim definitively that Vizquel wasn’t as good as Wills, Petrocelli, or Bell. At least you can’t defend that argument 100 percent just like you can’t defend the reverse. They are similar players in terms of value. 

Again, I’ve learned the hard way that attempting to piss on the opinions of others is not a good way to go about your business. Saying Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Famer is not patently absurd. After all, the writers put in both Rabbit Maranville and Luis Aparicio. If one subscribes to the “if…then” logical argument then he belongs in on those grounds. The problem comes when we ask whether those two should have been put in.

At the end of the day, his candidacy is just about as justified as Maury Wills. Wills was a great base stealer and could lay claim as one of the top two or three shortstops in the game at one time. If one chooses to overlook the obvious shortcomings in longevity and overall offensive production then one could lay out an argument for him. Similar words could be said of Mark Belanger. He was a Hall of Fame quality defensive shortstop. All 50 players here had Hall of Fame qualities. The question is whether they had enough of them to be fit. For the players in tier one the answer is yes. For the rest it becomes more and more questionable as we move down the list.

The Hall of Fame Index: Third Base Tiers

As we move to third basemen we notice that the methodology in play for both the BBWAA and the Veterans Committee is coming into play. Essentially, we are looking for tier one players that aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Finding only ten players to vote for can be a challenge, but if we estimate about one tier one player per position and you are practically there. Of course, for the Veterans Committee it becomes a little easier as they only have to choose two from a selection of maybe ten players.

The alternative is to sort through a series of tier two, three, and four players and select ones we consider fan favorites. I don’t care who you are. Everyone has a fan favorite that they allow slip past the protective barrier of snark and cold, hard analysis. The index was never designed to be a definitive voice on any player, but it does help protect ourselves from ourselves.

Tier One

Third base is an unusual position for a number of reasons. First, it may be the most underrated position in the Hall of Fame. The reasons for this are numerous. For one, we didn’t really see the kind of consistent power that we know today until after World War II. That coupled with the fact that most writers compare them offensively to first basemen leaves a standard impossible for the typical third baseman to live up to.

We won’t this kind of collection of worthy candidates at any other position. Beltre will be elected at his earliest convenience due largely to his 3000 hits, but also a career of terrific defense. Rolen still has the opportunity to be voted in by the writers, but he hasn’t built up following yet. We could chalk that up to the whole first base phenomenon but it also comes from the era he played in. There was always more than was expected and those lofty expectations often serve to obscure what really was.

Meanwhile, the last four guys could all be voted in by the Veterans Committee and be terrific selections. Out of the group, my vote would go to Nettles, but that is primarily because he comes on top in the index. With the exception of Bell, they all come with playoff resumes in addition to their career numbers.

Tier Two

The other major peculiarity about third basemen is the lack of traditional tiers that we have seen and will see again. It made picking only four tiers difficult. I’ve never had a problem with tier two Hall of Famers. Often there are reasons why they never made it into tier one and many times those reasons are legitimate. Bill James once said that numbers take on the properties of language. In this case, they tell a story in every case. A high career value and low peak value indicates a long career where a player was never really quite great. The flip side occurs when we have a low career value and similar peak value score.

 CareerPeakTotal
Mike Schmidt (B)303.0220.4523.7
Eddie Mathews (B)282.7209.1491.8
Wade Boggs (B)258.5198.7457.2
George Brett (B)259.7176.6436.3
Chipper Jones (B)252.9162.9415.8
Adrian Beltre254.6146.5401.1
Brooks Robinson (B)229.8157.7387.5
Paul Molitor (B)226.1137.9364.0
Scott Rolen200.8154.6355.4
Graig Nettles197.9152.1350.0
Edgar Martinez (B)194.9146.1341.0
Sal Bando174.3157.2331.5
Ken Boyer173.4153.0326.4
Buddy Bell188.2137.4325.6

It is always fascinating seeing players from different eras. Some of these guys are guys we grew up watching or watched as adults. Seeing their scores next to players from bygone eras helps us visualize the older players. Sure, their styles and strengths may be different, but value wise they are extremely similar.

Longoria is the only truly active player in the group and seeing him along with David Wright serves as a casual reminder about the dangers of canonizing young players. Wright was on his way to tier one when the injury bug bit. Longoria has been relatively healthy but he went from an all-star to an also ran overnight. He may be average enough to build enough to value to get over the hump, but it will be more difficult than previously imagined.

Tier Three

 CareerPeakCareer
John McGraw (V)136.0132.1268.1
Larry Gardner145.1116.7261.8
Matt Williams139.6121.1260.7
Pie Traynor (B)128.8113.5242.3
Lave Cross148.190.6238.7
Harlond Clift121.3115.7237.0
Tim Wallach125.7109.0234.7
Doug Decinces123.2110.8234.0
Eddie Yost124.5104.4228.9
Art Devlin114.2114.2228.4
Aramis Ramirez125.4101.9227.3
Ken Caminiti117.9108.8226.7
Bill Bradley111.6113.9225.5
Bill Madlock121.6103.8225.4

Sabermetrics certainly isn’t new. You could argue that McGraw was practicing it back in the 19thcentury. All he did was get on base. The funny thing is that 100 years ago or today it is all the same. The ability to get on first base is the single most valuable skill an offensive player can have. I remember when Terry Collins (then manager of the Astros) said of outfielder John Congelosi, “all he does is get on base.” He meant it as an insult.

I say all this because it becomes important in understanding why guys are where they are historically. Madlock won four batting titles in his career. Hundreds of fans decry the new numbers while others love them. Often, the old-fashioned will say, “I know a great player when I see one.” Sure. Suddenly, when asked to defend such a statement they will fall back on batting average or other similar established numbers. Maybe the irony isn’t lost on some of them. A fan is falling back on numbers to prove that we don’t need numbers to rank players in our own mind.

Numbers describe a player. They don’t define him as no single thing can define anyone. Someone could very well defend wanting a Madlock over a Ramirez historically. Ramirez struck out a lot and was not the best defender in the world. On a team of sluggers a Madlock might come in handy. On a team of junk and judy hitters a Ramirez might be preferred. The index considers the whole player and attempts to categorize him in these tiers. After that we can consider other numbers to further describe a player we may prefer over another.

Tier Four

 CareerPeakTotal
Heinie Zimmerman (V)112.6110.7223.3
George Kell (V)121.4100.6222.0
Troy Glaus111.1110.1221.2
Danny Murphy111.1110.1221.2
Ryan Zimmerman116.9103.6220.5
Carney Lansford123.196.5219.6
Gary Gaetti130.988.7219.6
Ken Keltner 109.9106.4216.3
Eric Chavez110.9104.0214.9
Ned Williamson108.1106.6214.7
Travis Fryman104.699.9204.5
 CareerPeakCareer
Darrell Evans192.5121.9314.4
Ron Cey165.4140.3305.7
Stan Hack171.6132.7304.3
Jimmy Collins (V)160.6142.7303.3
David Wright155.8145.9301.7
Robin Ventura167.6133.4301.0
Bob Elliott158.3131.1289.4
Heinie Groh153.0133.6286.6
Evan Longoria144.7140.7285.4
Tommy Leach164.7118.2282.9
Toby Harrah154.5126.6281.1

It doesn’t matter what position you are talking about, there are always a couple of tier four (or lower) guys that will slip into the Hall of Fame. If we are having a sober moment, we would readily admit that none of these guys really belong in the Hall of Fame. Yet, you get a smoke filled room where the cigars are smoked and the whiskey flows and suddenly George Kell becomes a Hall of Famer.

Of course, this isn’t to demean Kell or his memory. He was a good enough player when he was at his best. You could say the same for guys like Chavez, Gaetti, and Lansford from our lifetimes. Most fans would love to have a young Fryman on their team. In situations like these, there is something between high praise and snark that is warranted. Being one of the 50 best players at any position is something to be proud of, but if we are electing someone that has 40 or more guys more qualified than what are we doing?

Hall of Fame: Second Base Tiers

As we continue to move through the diamond, we continue to refine our approach. At least we refine how we explain our approach. When we start criticizing selections, we are criticizing some people’s favorite player. So, I try not to say someone definitively should not have been selected even if I believe that wholeheartedly. We talk about players either being fit or not fit for the Hall of Fame. The selection of Hall of Famers is a deeply personal process with both objective and subjective criteria.

Second base will be the first position where we see multiple players in tier one that are currently outside the Hall of Fame. The aim of doing this was to identify the player that is most fit for the Hall of Fame that is outside the Hall of Fame. How do we do that when we have multiple players that are fit. These are incredibly hard decisions. 

On the other end, we have another position with a Hall of Famer outside of the top 50. This one will get deeply personal as this player is beloved for multiple reasons. We will address his case at the end, but I’m sure his name will be a glaring omission for some. Rest assured, I ran him through the same test that I ran the others through.

Tier One

 CareerPeakTotal
Rogers Hornsby (B)357.7265.8623.5
Eddie Collins (B)359.3224.0583.3
Nap Lajoie (B)308.8211.2520.0
Joe Morgan (B)301.8198.2500.0
Charlie Gehringer (B)235.9178.6414.5
Rod Carew (B)230.4160.4390.8
Frankie Frisch (B)220.4165.5385.9
Craig Biggio (B)216.9161.9378.8
Bobby Grich206.0155.5361.5
Ryne Sandberg (B)198.1162.7360.8
Roberto Alomar (B)206.1149.9356.0
Chase Utley187.5167.0354.5
Robinson Cano193.4160.1353.5
Lou Whitaker213.4138.6352.0

Keep a couple things in mind. First, this is not meant to be a ranking of players. I can comfortably say I would put Rogers Hornsby on top, but some others may prefer Collins and that’s fine. This becomes particularly important the further we get down the list. The difference between Chase Utley (who just retired) and Lou Whitaker is negligible. We are measuring fitness and that is measured when we get to the gaps between the tiers. However, we should note that the gap between tier one and tier two will always be greater than the gaps between tiers two, three, and four.

I can’t get overly technical because the mathematicians in the audience will start to wince. Suffice it to say, as we approach the mean we notice that the data gets tighter. I think this is what mathematicians call regression to the mean, but maybe someone will be nice and offer some enlightenment on the issue. We do have two players in tier one that are eligible for the Hall of Fame, but both have fallen off the BBWAA ballot. That makes them eligible for the new Veterans Committee.

This is where the term “fitness” comes back into focus. Grich is more fit than Whitaker according to this model, but that doesn’t mean he was necessarily a better player. That’s a subjective question and while I might have my opinions, those opinions are exactly that and are worth no more or less than anyone else’s.

Tier Two

CareerPeakTotal
Jackie Robinson (B)170.0170.0340.0
Joe Gordon (V)166.2159.8326.0
Willie Randolph190.4124.7315.1
Jeff Kent179.2135.1314.3
Billy Herman (V)169.4135.2304.6
Bobby Doerr (V)160.7139.2299.9
Bid McPhee (V)176.2120.3296.5
Ian Kinsler154.8136.8291.6
Nellie Fox (V)150.0134.8284.8
Tony Lazzeri (V)152.5129.5282.0
Dustin Pedroia142.4137.6280.0
Larry Doyle152.5123.6276.1

I’d like to welcome those of you joining us for the first time. If you are joining us then I invite you to buy my book and read my past articles. If you don’t want to go back that far you should keep one thing in mind. The index is a tool and only a tool. Only an idiot would claim that Jackie Robinson doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Yes, he falls into tier two as an accounting measure, but a wise baseball fan considers a number of factors before making their final call on a player.

A number of Hall of Famers in this grouping served their country in World War II or played in an era where there were fewer opportunities to accrue value. One needs to separate them from others like Fox and Lazzeri who simply were borderline guys at best. This doesn’t even bring up the current crop of guys just on the ballot or on the ballot someday.

The role of the BBWAA voter is different (or should be) than the Veterans Committee voter. The BBWAA should be focused on selecting the ten most fit players for the Hall of Fame. In that universe Jeff Kent might be a Hall of Famer. Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler might be as well someday even if they don’t make it into tier one.

Tier Three

 CareerPeakTotal
Johnny Evers (V)150.3120.2270.5
Cupid Childs137.5129.8267.3
Ben Zobrist133.9132.4266.3
Tony Phillips151.1109.4260.5
Chuck Knoblauch130.8128.0258.8
Buddy Myer142.4108.9251.3
Del Pratt134.9116.2251.1
Julio Franco141.5105.2246.7
Hardy Richardson130.6113.7244.3
Red Schoendienst (V)132.1108.0240.1
Gil McDougal119.2119.2238.4

Tier three is what the index is really all about. When we get into tier three and four, we are getting into players that really aren’t fit for the Hall of Fame on the merits of their play alone. Red Schoendienst and Miller Huggins are there on the basis of their playing career AND their managerial career. Evers is there because of a poem. As crazy as that may sound, all of us have deeply personal reasons for liking a player that might seem silly to others.

I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I like the cut of Ben Zobrist’s jib. He is extremely versatile, gets on base, and just flies under the radar. I have a similar feeling about a tier four guy. If I allowed those feelings to influence my vote, I would be no better than the Veterans Committee guys that put in so many questionable Hall of Famers.

I won’t hide the fact that I’m rooting for Zobrist to get into tier two, but the methodology won’t change to accommodate him. He will have to earn that spot on his own and with another couple of seasons he might get there. There are always historical reasons for the numbers we see and sometimes those warrant an exception, but we have to work very hard to keep sentimentality out of the process.

Tier Four

 CareerPeakTotal
Davey Lopes132.2102.1234.3
Placido Polanco123.2108.8232.0
Lonny Frey119.9110.6230.5
Eddie Stanky115.2114.5229.7
Dick McAuliffe121.0107.2228.2
Jim Gilliam122.899.0221.8
Miller Huggins (V)119.0101.3220.3
Danny Murphy113.3106.4219.7
Fred Dunlap109.5109.5219.0
Max Bishop111.7106.4218.1
Don Buford108.8108.8217.6
Claude Ritchie107.8103.8211.6
Jimmy Williams105.1105.6210.7

When I was in high school, there was a computer game called “Old Time Baseball.” They don’t make them like they used to. This game had every team and every player between 1871 and 1981. You could play games between specific teams (say the 1927 Yankees and 1975 Reds) or you could draft players for a super team. Fred Dunlap was a favorite pick for those drafts. One year, he put it all together and hit over .420. In reality, that wasn’t the case. They counted walks as hits that season, so it made everything look like it was magical on that level.

For a seam-head there was no better player from this list than Max Bishop. He was a stalwart on the great Philadelphia A’s teams from the late 1920s and early 1930s. He managed to have a career .423 OBP. Even in the Live Ball Era that was something. As you can see from the basic numbers above, his career was not long enough to get out of tier four. However, when you are really good at the same time as others that are really good you can create something magical. It then becomes easy to get attached to a player like that.

When you look up his numbers you notice that he played six seasons for the American Association’s Baltimore Orioles. Those Orioles may have been able to finish in the middle of the pack in the American or National League. They dominated the American Association to the point where they were better than modern AAA teams. They were also independent and would not surrender their top players for less than top dollar.

The A’s got a number of players from there including Hall of Famer Lefty Grove. In his fourth season (at age 22) with the Orioles, Bishop hit .331. In the modern game he likely would have gotten called up to the big club following that season. Certainly, four seasons of minor league baseball is a suitable apprenticeship today. So, let’s add two seasons on the front end of his career. Is it possible that he could be worth four wins in each of those seasons? Eight wins is equal to 24 index wins. That moves him to 135.7 and also might elevate his peak value a little as well. It still would make him a tier three guy and there are a number of players from that era with the same story.

The Elephant in the Room

Many of you are wondering about Bill Mazeroski. I don’t blame you. I was surprised he didn’t make the top 50. However, I knew he would be in tier three or four. Many trumpet him as the greatest defensive second baseman in the history of the game. The trouble in terms of value is that he was also a below average offensive player. The combination made him roughly average over the course of more than a decade. So, he drops off the list.

This is where my verbiage has to be precise. I am saying he was not fit to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Are there are other reasons? Well, some might say if you are the best at anything then a museum to the game’s history begs for your inclusion. I suppose there is an argument there, but there is also a logical stopping point as well. Do we want to elect the best drag bunter? Pinch runner? Lefty specialist? Certainly, fielding any position is more important than those, but should the best fielder at every position be in even if they weren’t a good hitter?

Mazeroski also hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. He stands with Joe Carter as one of the two players in history to do that. Ironically, Carter is another borderline candidate that could get some benefit from history. Maybe when you include all of these facts into a goodie bag you get a Hall of Famer. I don’t find the case that compelling, but the floor is certainly open to all opinions.

Hall of Fame Index: First Base Tiers

As we continue through our journey of looking at the top 50 players at each position we discover the importance of looking at tiers instead of looking at simple rankings of players. Of course, we also might find your favorite first baseman in here as well. However, the most important reason to go through this exercise is to definitively determine the tier one players not yet in the Hall of Fame.

Players in the Hall of Fame will be bolded with a “B” and “V to show how they made it into the Hall of Fame. As we saw last time, the tier one players were almost universally Hall of Famers. Tier two guys were mixed with those in the Hall of Fame often having compelling cases based on external factors that limited their ability to enter tier one. Some will make arguments for other tier two guys and they aren’t without merit, but it also serves to water down the Hall of Fame.

Tiers three and four have some Hall of Famers in them, but none are qualified for the Hall of Fame. They are in because the Veterans Committee devolved into cronyism rather than electing players on merit. Some of our favorite players are here and they are still good players, but have flaws that limit their fitness.

Tier One

 CareerPeakTotal
Lou Gehrig (B)326.5259.6586.1
Albert Pujols 283.4228.1507.5
Jimmie Foxx (B)285.8221.2507.0
Roger Conner (V)293.1182.2425.3
Jeff Bagwell (B)237.5186.1423.6
Cap Anson (V)261.5147.2408.7
Frank Thomas (B)227.0174.8401.8
Dan Brouthers (V)224.2169.6393.8
Miguel Cabrera 219.3173.3392.6
Johnny Mize (V)207.1184.7391.8
Eddie Murray (B)228.1153.4381.5
Jim Thome (B)218.6154.9373.5
Rafael Palmeiro220.7149.4370.1
Willie McCovey (B)213.5150.9364.4
Harmon Killebrew (B)202.7154.3357.0
Dick Allen 188.4168.4356.8

So, four players on the above list are not in the Hall of Fame and two of them are currently active. That leaves Palmeiro and Allen. As we know, Palmeiro has extenuating circumstances that are keeping him from the Hall of Fame. Interestingly enough, he has been playing in the Atlantic League for the past couple of years and even posted a 900+ OPS last year. There has been talk of him getting back into organized baseball. Maybe that will start the clock over with the BBWAA.

Either way, that leaves Allen as the only viable candidate left. There is some question of where he should be categorized. He played more games at first base than third base, but arguably had his best seasons as a third baseman. All that being said, he should be in the Hall of Fame and should be one of the players that gets the attention of the new Veterans Committee.

Tier Two

 CareerPeakTotal
Keith Hernandez182.0160.0342.0
Mark McGwire196.9141.4338.3
Joey Votto173.8162.6336.4
Todd Helton179.6155.7333.3
Hank Greenberg (B)172.1154.5326.6
Tony Perez (B)182.7141.9324.6
Bill Terry (V)166.8152.7319.5
John Olerud175.9139.5315.4
George Sisler (B)166.6147.6314.2
Jason Giambi165.3143.1308.4
Will Clark 174.7133.3308.0
Fred McGriff177.9127.8305.7
Norm Cash169.6133.7303.3

I should say a word or two about Keith Hernandez. Brian Kenney from the MLB Network is just one of the significant baseball journalists that champion his cause. Yes, he is usually regarded as the best fielding first baseman ever and he got on base with great proficiency. He is close to being a tier one guy, but just isn’t quite there. This isn’t to say that he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, but he shouldn’t be the priority.

Officially, Votto is the only active player, but there are some that have not been exposed to the BBWAA ballot yet. Jason Giambi and Todd Helton are not on the ballot yet, so we don’t know how the BBWAA will respond to their candidacies, but since Helton played in Colorado and Giambi was implicated in the steroids scandal, neither figures to get a ton of support when they do get on the ballot.

In terms of the Hall of Famers here, we know Greenberg’s story (missed seasons due to World War II) but the other three are all questionable Hall of Famers. I hashed the cases of Perez and Sisler in an earlier article. Terry was the last National League player to hit over .400. Is that fact alone enough to throw a borderline career over the top? That’s hard to say, but there is a case to be made I guess.

Tier Three

 CareerPeakTotal
Jake Beckley (V)186.1104.0290.1
David Ortiz169.5115.0284.5
Orlando Cepeda (V)162.5122.1284.6
Mark Teixeira149.8130.4280.2
Carlos Delgado149.1130.7279.8
Gil Hodges139.5137.0276.5
Ed Konetchy153.2123.3276.5
Frank Chance (V)141.2128.3269.5
Adrian Gonzalez135.7132.0267.7
Mark Grace150.7116.1266.8
Dave Foutz133.0132.0265.0

There are stronger feelings around tier three then there are around tier two. Ortiz and Hodges have fierce defenders, but when you see them surrounded by the guys they are surrounded with you get a tequila shot of where they actually stand in the history of the game. However, to illustrate the case for Ortiz we compare him to his three contemporaries here, but we will do it with the A,B,C, and D test.

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Player A138-25.678135.391
Player B129-34.620127.359
Player C141-39.688140.392
Player D126-8.639127.371

Which one is Ortiz? If you guessed Player C you would be right and Player C is the best hitter on the board. However, he is the best hitter on the board. He spent nearly all of his time as a designated hitter, so while Adrian Gonzalez (B) and Mark Teixeira (D) may not have been brilliant first basemen, they were decent enough to play their full-time. Delgado (A) also spent time at designated hitter, but spent enough time at first to mitigate the difference on the offensive end.

The point being that when we get attached to a player good or bad we sometimes lost objectivity. Ortiz has a stellar postseason reputation that is likely well-deserved. How much should that count towards his Hall of Fame case? Well, that is debatable, but for me it is hard to take a guy from tier three and bypass a guy that is in tier one.

Tier Four

 CareerPeakTotal
Don Mattingly135.7125.1260.8
Dolph Camilli131.6128.6260.2
Boog Powell139.5113.0252.5
Fred Tenney139.2105.5244.7
Joe Judge146.597.4243.9
Steve Garvey131.7108.4240.1
Harry Davis125.8112.7238.5
Jim Bottomley (V)124.5110.6235.2
Jake Daubert135.0100.0235.0
Kent Hrbek122.2108.3230.5

Tier four is a treasure chest full of interesting characters. Mattingly was the best player in baseball for five or six seasons before back injuries wrecked his career. With all of the excitement over guys like Mookie Betts and Mike Trout, he is a great reminder of why we wait ten seasons before we profile any player. Meanwhile, Powell and Garvey were on some great teams and were prominent players on those teams.

Bottomley is not the worst Hall of Famer at first base. George Kelly didn’t even crack the top 50 and played in the same era as Bottomley. Both were dubious selections by the Veterans Committee at a time with numerous dubious selections. Simply put, the numbers he put up might look special to some but came at a time when everyone was putting up numbers. This is why we utilize something like the index to distill out the effects of time and place.

Like with the catchers, you see some prominent players on prominent teams here. Number 50 on the list played a key role in two World Series championships in Minnesota. It might be overstating it, but those two titles might be the reason why there is still baseball in Minnesota. Powell and Garvey had their moments as well. There just weren’t enough of them to push them into the higher three tiers. 

Hall of Fame Index: Catcher Tiers

We spent the first round of articles covering those that the BBWAA voted into the Hall of Fame and those that we think could be in the Hall of Fame. Now, it is time for us to go in a different direction. We are going deep data diving in the interest of tying up some loose ends. First, everyone has a favorite player we haven’t featured yet in our articles. So, we are going 50 players deep at every position in the interest of satisfying the “what about” nature of the discussion.

More importantly, this kind of data dive demonstrates how the index works and how it can refine the Hall of Fame discussion. Simple rankings don’t tell us nearly as much as when we look for gaps in the data. We will break every position into four tiers. The first tier always contains the most Hall of Famers and therefore we find that those outside the Hall of Fame stick out. These tiers are not divided equally. We look for gaps in data to determine our dividing line.

Tier 2 will have some Hall of Famers in it, but always far fewer than Tier 1. Those are not necessarily mistakes per se. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that help explain why a Hall of Famer is a tier 2 guy. When we move into tiers three and four we find the mistakes. Usually, they are Veterans Committee selections, but that is not always the case as we will see. In the following tables, Hall of Famers will be bolded with a “B” next to BBWAA selections and a “V” next to Veterans Committee selections. Italicized players are either active or not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Tier One

 CareerPeakTotal
Johnny Bench (B)221.2171.3392.5
Gary Carter (B)206.9172.5379.4
Mike Piazza (B)188.1167.8355.9
Yogi Berra (B)198.1152.9351.0
Ivan Rodriguez (B)205.2144.1349.3
Carlton Fisk (B)210.4120.0330.4
Joe Torre (V)182.9142.8325.7
Ted Simmons167.5140.3307.8
Bill Dickey (B)174.7131.1305.8
Joe Mauer165.5135.6301.1
Mickey Cochrane (B)157.7142.0299.7
Gabby Hartnett (B)172.1112.5284.6

The data usually speaks for itself. This will become plain when we get to the second tier, but suffice it to say there is always a significant gap between tier one and tier two. It won’t always be at a specific number like 300 as you can see here. It won’t always be after a dozen players. It varies by position. Considering that Joe Mauer just retired, you don’t get any more obvious than this. There is only one player here not in the Hall of Fame.

Is Ted Simmons the best player in baseball history not in the Hall of Fame? That’s a more difficult question to answer, but he is the most qualified catcher not in the Hall of Fame by a considerable margin. As a matter of course, he deserves much more attention than someone like Harold Baines.

Tier Two

 CareerPeakTotal
Jorge Posada139.1124.2263.3
Gene Tenace138.0123.5261.5
Bill Freehan143.0116.4259.4
Thurman Munson128.2127.0255.2
Buck Ewing (V)143.9109.2253.1
Buster Posey122.4122.4244.8
Jason Kendall130.2108.9239.1
Yadier Molina129.0108.2237.2
Roger Bresnahan (V)127.5107.6235.1
Lance Parrish132.598.5231.0
Wally Schang135.092.8227.8
Roy Campanella (B)113.7113.7227.4
Ernie Lombardi (V)131.492.3233.7
Darrell Porter126.197.0223.1

The index was never meant to be an exact science, but there is always a sizeable gap between tier one and two. So, even though Jorge Posada ranks right behind Gabby Hartnett, that does not mean he belongs in. It also doesn’t mean that Ewing, Bresnahan, Campanella, and Lombardi don’t belong in. We know Ewing and Campanella have compelling cases that will ultimately affect their index score.

Campanella lost several seasons to the color barrier and Ewing played his career in the 19thcentury when schedules were far shorter than today. Lombardi and Bresnahan have more difficult cases, but cases can be made for them. The trouble comes when people make the “if…then” argument. Players like that have cases that stand alone because of unique circumstances, so arguing that Wally Schang should be in because Ernie Lombardi is in becomes a quagmire. 

When we move to tier three we notice two things. First, the gap is noticeable between two and three, but it is a much smaller gap. Secondly, it is hard to argue for anyone in tiers three and four, but we will always see an occasional player that made it in anyway. We didn’t cover those players the first time around because there was no compelling reason to do so. Their careers have not been and should not be a basis for arguing for someone else. However, since many of them are fan favorites (and legitimately good players) we should tip our cap by giving them a cursory mention.

Tier Three

 CareerPeakTotal
Jim Sundberg118.395.7214.0
Russell Martin112.998.0210.9
Brian McCann111.598.2209.7
Victor Martinez106.6101.4208.0
Charlie Bennett109.495.9205.3
Sherm Lollar109.689.2198.8
Elston Howard98.992.7191.6
Javy Lopez99.291.7190.9
Tom Haller95.194.0189.1
Smoky Burgess101.979.8181.7
Mickey Tettleton94.786.8181.5

It’s actually unusual for us not to have any tier three Hall of Famers. With three current players near the top of the list we can see a good illustration of what a tier three guy looks like. All three current players (Victor Martinez just retired) have looked like Hall of Famers for short bursts. All three have had issues that have prevented them from approaching the neighborhood of guys like Joe Mauer. In the case of Martin, he just hasn’t been as consistent offensively. McCann has been good offensively and defensively, but he has never been great in either category. As we know, Martinez has spent the past several seasons as a designated hitter because he just wasn’t durable enough behind the plate.

As you might imagine, the other players on the list come with similar issues. The difference between tier three and tier four is that tier three guys usually only had minor flaws that prevented them from entering tier one or two. Tier four guys have major flaws that impact most players. The difference is that all of these players played at least ten seasons, so they all accrued some level of value.

Tier Four

 CareerPeakTotal
Tim McCarver96.979.5176.4
Manny Sanguillen86.687.8174.4
Walker Cooper93.379.7173.0
Jack Clements90.378.5168.8
Rick Ferrell (V)98.270.5168.7
Mike Scioscia88.279.7167.9
Ray Schalk (V)89.278.3167.5
Terry Steinbach90.676.7167.3
Ed Bailey84.781.5166.2
Tony Pena83.679.4163.0
Benito Santiago94.068.0162.0
Bob Boone101.359.3160.6
Butch Wyneger80.978.0158.9

When we say that Schalk and Ferrell are woefully unqualified for the Hall of Fame that isn’t meant as an insult. Most of us would love to have a modern-day clone as the catcher on our team. Neither would be the best catcher in their league, but they would certainly be in the upper half. Being in the upper half does not make you a Hall of Famer. However, if you are good at the right time you can contribute to some pretty special seasons from a team standpoint.

We reviewed Baseball’s Dynastiesin an earlier article and noted how many prominent catchers were on those teams. It’s likely that every dynasty covered in that book is represented by a catcher in one of these tiers. We are still talking about the top 50 catchers (that have played ten or more seasons) in the history of the game. You have to be pretty good to make this list. Undoubtedly, we may have left out someone near and dear to you. That’s unfortunately going to be the case whether the cutoff is 50, 75, or 100.

Hall of Fame Index: Recently Retired Right Fielders

If you have been following the series of articles on right fielders you have noticed an issue. The primary issue is that there are too many guys on the outside looking in that seem to be qualified for the Hall of Fame. If we count the what about series, we have three players from the period before 1990, two players from the current crop of players, and we haven’t looked at the players who played most of their career after 1990.

Obviously, not all of them can get in even though they all seem to be qualified. That is why the Hall of Fame index was never meant to peg an exact number for players to get into the Hall of Fame. Every position is unique, so we look for gaps in data and then we leave it to the voters to make up their mind from there.

We have resisted the temptation to look at Veterans Committee selections because that just adds to the cesspool and confuses the situation. However, we will be getting there eventually to illustrate the data gaps at each position. The hope is that the new Veterans Committee can approach things in a different way.

In this edition, we will look at players currently on the ballot or who were recently dropped off of the ballot. All of them have compelling cases, but some of them are more pressing than others. As we have seen, once you drop off the ballot there is a long line to get in. That is made longer when they keep tabbing guys like Harold Baines.

Career Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Gary Sheffield60.562.186.0208.6
Larry Walker72.768.761.6203.0
Sammy Sosa58.660.164.2182.9
Brian Giles51.154.957.4163.4

It is impossible to give a complete airing out of the issues with all of these players. Two of them were implicated in the steroids scandal of the early 2000s while another has perception issues stemming from where he played a good portion of his career. Then, there is Brian Giles. Even to mention the specter of steroids doesn’t even being to explain the individual situations of Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa.

Sosa never tested positive in an official test, but everyone knows there was something going on there. He was always a good player, but in 1998 he burst onto the scene to win the MVP award. The race between Mark McGwire and Sosa was largely credited with bringing the fans back from the player strike in 1994. Sheffield fits more into the “suspected users” category. There is really no proof, but there are dozens of players that fit uncomfortably in that category. The “evidence” is largely based on innuendo and conjecture. The player got bigger. His numbers suddenly got better. He played with known users. Often any combination of those statements is enough to paint the scarlet “S” on a player’s record.

It’s impossible to say definitively which case is the most tragic, but my vote goes to Walker. He was never implicated in that scandal, but he played a good portion of his career in Denver. A breakdown of the basic numbers and the WAR numbers indicate why Walker has gotten a raw deal.

 AVGHRRunsRBIbWAR
Colorado.33425889284848.3
Montreal.2819936828421.1
St. Louis.2862695793.3

Sure, he was a considerably better hitter in Denver. Anyone would be, but Walker averaged three wins a season outside of Denver over the course of eight seasons. He averaged nearly five in Denver, but his prime came in Denver. Even if we assume he would have been a four win player elsewhere, that would still be more than 60 bWAR in his career. On the other hand, that is a misrepresentation of the way WAR works. All numbers have a context and the homefield advantage is taken into account.

So, in essence Walker has been penalized twice. The formulas of the three stats we use already penalize him. We will see that in the offensive numbers as well. Statistics like OPS+ and wRC+ already account for home ballpark differences. So, when the voters discount what he does they are penalizing him a second time. That’s obviously not fair.

Giles is a more of a conventional question. Was he good enough for long enough? The career value numbers only show us part of the story. We will have to look at the peak value numbers to get a definitive answer to that question. Both Walker and Giles suffer in comparison with Sheffield in win shares because they didn’t play for good teams for the bulk of their career. WAR normalizes that data much more than win shares, so it is fair to question whether Sheffield really is better in terms of career value. 

Peak Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Sammy Sosa54.254.847.6156.6
Gary Sheffield45.845.758.4149.9
Brian Giles45.349.050.4144.7
Larry Walker51.248.441.6141.2

Again, the difference can be seen in win shares. Sheffield has a distinct advantage over every player and Walker somehow comes up behind the others. The interesting guy on this list is Giles. Without looking at other numbers, you can kind of tell what his career was like. Giles and Sosa are similar in that they were really good during their ten year peaks, but didn’t have a ton of value outside of those ten seasons.

Walker and Sheffield enjoyed more success outside of their peaks and that might be the difference between being fit and not. Still, you have four really good players here and it will be tough to choose one or two from the group even when you distill out the debates beyond the numbers.

Hall of Fame Index

 CareerPeakTotal
Sheffield208.6149.9358.5
Walker203.0141.2344.2
Sosa182.9156.6339.5
Giles163.4144.7308.1

We probably will not see a collection of talent like this at any position from any era. I suppose an argument could be made against any of these players, but more arguments could be made for them. As we move to the offensive and fielding numbers we will begin to see why these players are where they are historically.

Offensive Numbers

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Walker14140.746140.412
Sheffield140-1.687141.391
Giles13621.676136.388
Sosa128-15.622124.370

In many ways, it’s an interesting time in baseball. The data revolution is beginning to make it’s way to the writers. Of course, there are any number of opinions about whether that is a good thing or not. With Edgar Martinez getting in we have our first designated hitter getting into the Hall of Fame. The voters are also looking at more data when it comes to Cy Young awards and MVP awards. One of the absolutes has been that no player from Denver will make it into the Hall of Fame because we just can’t trust the numbers.

The numbers above demonstrate the folly of discounting Walker. Every one of those numbers is adjusted for the advantage of Coors Field. Walker was that good. Sheffield was not as good, but the numbers are still very comparable to those that are already in the Hall of Fame. His problem is two-fold. Yes, there are the steroids, but the other problem is that he did not have many signature seasons with a signature team. He played for eight teams in his career. It would be fair to ask why. When you play for that many teams there are obviously things going on behind the scenes. Some make too much of intangibles, but when you have a borderline case that matters.

Sosa represents the other part of the data revolution. There was a time when 600 home runs would be an automatic for Cooperstown and maybe if steroids weren’t involved he would be. Even without the PEDs he still might come up short because he just didn’t get on base as many times as the others on this list.

Fielding Numbers

 RfieldDWARUZRDWSWSGG
Walker942.08850.41
Sosa86-0.39243.41
Giles-28-9.1-1537.20
Sheffield-195-27.7-13541.50

There is scene in “Major League” where the manager wonders why no one else picked up Pedro Serrano. Then, he asked the batting practice pitcher to switch to curveballs. A similar statement could be made about Sheffield. Maybe those seven teams that traded him just had enough of his defense. Of course, he also came up as a third baseman and failed miserably there. So, he wasn’t as bad a defensive outfielder as the raw numbers would indicate. If there had been a designated hitter in the National League he might have never had played in the field at all.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Sosa. I would have never dreamed that he was this good. Perception was that he was not all that good. This is why we keep numbers in the first place. Walker also never won a Gold Glove in his career. That seems somehow impossible given how good he was, but the Gold Glove awards could best be called idiosyncratic in nature.

However, there is no greater demonstration of the effects of perception than the MVP tests. We could probably predict that Sosa might appear to be overrated and the others underrated before we even get to the tables. That is probably on the basis of his MVP award. We will have to put that to the test though.

BBWAA MVP Test

 Top 25Top 10Top 5MVPTotal
Sosa251132
Sheffield133025
Walker421125
Giles41007

BWAR MVP Test

 Top 10Top 5MVPTotal
Walker31124
Sosa21011
Sheffield1108
Giles2006

Let’s assume that all of the seasons listed in the first table that were not counted in the second were top 25 campaigns. Walker would jump to 26 points. Sosa would have a stronger 17 points, but he would still trail Walker by a considerable margin. Sheffield would stand at 13 points and Giles would stand at nine.

Giles had eight seasons with 3.8 bWAR or better. So, if the voting were fair, he likely would have wound up with 12 points. Branch Rickey famously told Ralph Kiner that he could finish in last with or without him. The same was likely true of Giles and those Pirates teams. What these tables tell us is that Larry Walker has gotten a raw deal in the voting so far. The BBWAA still has time to rectify the situations for Walker, Sheffield, and Sosa. It remains to be seen whether they will get that call.

Hall of Fame Index: Right Fielders On the Outside Looking In through 1990

The Hall of Fame index is way to separate players into different tiers. Absolute rankings are not meaningful all the time. If I were to throw out five right fielders like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, and Josh Reddick, it would be accurate to say that Reddick was the fifth ranked right fielder in the group. However, what does that even mean? Obviously, the separation between number four and number five makes that distinction practically meaningless.

That’s obviously an extreme example, but when we get to the debate over players on the outside looking in, we get to players that fans obviously have an emotional attachment to. When it’s a beloved player it becomes increasingly difficult to look at them objectively. If it is a hated player, we have the same problem. We will see both examples in the players that played a majority of their careers before 1990.

Career Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Bobby Bonds57.957.260.4175.5
Jack Clark53.150.663.2166.9
Rusty Staub45.847.971.6165.3
Dave Parker40.141.165.4146.6
Tony Oliva43.140.749.0132.8

Social media doesn’t usually allow for indepth analysis and nuanced arguments. One Facebook group threw out the question of whether you would pick Parker or Oliva for the Hall of Fame if you had to pick one. Could I pick neither? Such an argument also leaves out the three names above them (in addition to Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith from the previous article). A part of that is the perception over the counting numbers that each of them put up. Some of that is the perception of the players off the field and in the clubhouse. Let’s take a look at the counting numbers.

 AVGHitsHRRunsRBISB
Bonds.268188333212581024461
Clark.26718263401118118077
Staub.27927162921189146647
Parker.290271233912721493154
Oliva.304191722087094786

Well, obviously Staub and Parker were better than those other guys. They had more hits and drove in more runs. They also hit for a better average than both Bonds and Clark. So, how in the hell do those two end up with more value than the bottom three? Well, the easy answer is that all numbers have a context. We have to consider the era they played in, the home ballpark, and whether those numbers were accrued over the course of a dozen seasons or twenty seasons. We also haven’t accounted for defensive value at all.

Baseball fans remember hits, home runs, Runs, and RBI. They remember batting average. They don’t remember walks, OBP, or slugging percentage. Those numbers just don’t roll off the tongue. This perception widens when we are dealing with a personal hero. Suddenly we remember the good times and forget about the bad times. We also forget about context. This is why we include peak value in the conversation. How good were these guys when they were at their very best?

Peak Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Bobby Bonds50.551.151.8153.4
Tony Oliva42.840.445.2128.4
Rusty Staub36.435.949.6121.9
Jack Clark37.334.342.8114.4
Dave Parker34.333.142.4109.8

This is where Bonds shines. His career was relatively short, so he didn’t have the counting numbers the others had. The index is merely a guide, so a voter could figure him not to be worthy of the Hall of Fame for any number of reasons. Like his son, he could be a little surly and that probably caused him to move around a lot. Another thing we notice in every industry is that when you are difficult to get along with, teams aren’t willing to tolerate you unless you are really good. When you stop being really good they stop employing you.

Still, he was really good when he was at his best and you really couldn’t say that about anyone else with the exception of Oliva. The others either were a grade below across the board or didn’t produce enough good seasons to make the grade. That certainly describes Parker and Clark. They had some really good seasons that were Hall of Fame quality. They just didn’t have enough of them. Staub was consistently solid, but rarely ever good.

Hall of Fame Index

CareerPeakTotal
Bobby Bonds175.5153.4328.9
Rusty Staub165.3121.9287.2
Jack Clark166.9114.4281.3
Tony Oliva132.8128.4261.2
Dave Parker146.6109.8256.4

Whether any of these guys is a Hall of Famer is what I like to call a “sports bar” question. It’s best discussed over a beer with friends. The index is designed to measure fitness. I won’t say that any of the bottom four are not Hall of Famers, because that is more of a philosophical question. What I will say is that there are others (as we have seen) that are more qualified to go in at this point.

Just like with all of the other articles, we will look at offensive numbers, defensive numbers, and MVP voting. These don’t necessarily tell us anything that we haven’t already seen, but they serve to explain why we are seeing what we are seeing. Occasionally, our opinions can change, but usually we already have our minds made up. This is just evidence to point us one way or another.

Offensive Numbers

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Clark13711.693137.379
Oliva1315.671129.365
Bonds12937.648130.368
Staub 124-11.620122.353
Parker121-19.610120.354

If we go back to the referenced social media question, we find two very different reasons why Oliva and Parker aren’t qualified. When he was healthy and at his best, Oliva was as good as the second tier BBWAA guys. He simply wasn’t healthy enough throughout his career to match their longevity. We could say that about quite a few guys. Don Mattingly immediately comes to mind from my childhood. If we are going to make allowances for that then we will have to keep that door pretty wide open.

As for Parker, he just wasn’t as good as we remember. That happens too. Sometimes a player comes up big in a big moment and becomes the stuff of legend. Sometimes a good player plays on a good team and ends up looking like something more than good. Either of those could be true of Parker as he did play on some good Pirates teams.

As for Clark and Staub, we are only seeing half of the battle (offense is weighted more than fielding in reality, but saying half is just easier). Clark in particular looks like a Hall of Famer here, but spent about the same amount of time at first as he did in right field, so he didn’t have the requisite defensive value.

Fielding Value

 RfieldDWARTZDWSWSGG
Oliva56-4.45628.21
Bonds48-1.84742.72
Parker-21-14.8-1942.41
Clark-22-12.8-326.30
Staub-56-21.0-5129.10

Again, Parker comes out worse than we remember. Those of us that grew up watching him heard all of the stories about the legendary arm and we saw examples on the highlight reels. The measure of a player is how often they are able to succeed and not whether they are capable of the spectacular on occasion.

If anything, the offensive and defensive numbers demonstrate how tragic a case Oliva’s career truly was. He was brilliant offensively and defensively, but couldn’t stay on the field. Bobby Bonds on the other hand demonstrated why he was as valuable as he was because of his ability to hit and field.

Our final tests are the MVP tests. Invariably, we can make the mistake a justifying or torpedoing a selection based on how a player fared in the MVP voting. This assumes the voters were right. As we know, the voters often aren’t able to accurately pinpoint value and that assumes they are even trying. What the test does show is how each player was thought of when he was in the midst of his career. The BWAR test shows where he probably should have been rated had the voters been ranking them accurately. The tests aren’t perfect. Baseball-reference only tracks the top ten position players each season, so we don’t get any top 25 votes on that portion. Still, the scores should be similar if everything else is equal.

BBWAA MVP Points

 Top 25Top 10Top 5MVPPoints
Parker304133
Oliva323024
Clark222018
Staub601011
Bonds102011

BWAR MVP Points

 Top 10Top 5MVPPoints
Parker03125
Oliva04020
Bonds12013
Staub3009
Clark0105

We would have assumed that Parker was overrated going in, but actually that was not the case. In both tests he ended up getting votes in four and five seasons in the top five. That’s pretty darn impressive. The problem comes in what happens in the other seasons. Parker and Oliva are prime examples of why I wait until a player has played ten seasons. We can assume Hall of Fame fitness before that and with some players (cough…Mike Trout…cough) that assumption is pretty safe. That isn’t always the case.

Parker and Oliva looked like Hall of Famers before they got to their tenth season, but whether it was injury or ineffectiveness, they petered out. Clark and Staub are explained fairly easily as well. Defense matters, but to many in the BBWAA it doesn’t. The Bobby Bonds experience is a little more complicated.

Beat writers and players hang out together all the time. They spend every day together. Beat writers are therefore privy to the personality quirks of every guy where casual fans may not. Modern writers have access to numbers that those from the past did not. Also, with the advent of social media, players can bypass the media and interact directly with fans. So, fans will become more keenly aware of which players are “cool” and which ones are “assholes.” Bonds might have charitably been put in the latter category.

Most beat writers wouldn’t blatantly stick it to a guy that is surly with them, but a few would. On top of that, these MVP votes are often close. If you have two guys with similar numbers you will vote for the one you think is the better “clubhouse leader”. When you start looking at the top ten or top 25 you are looking at a lot of similar players. Bonds played for a number of teams because ultimately the teams tired of his act. Still, even with all of that the BBWAA wasn’t horribly off on Bonds. Still, they didn’t give him the love he deserved. Maybe the new Veterans Committee can take up the mantle.