Occasionally, we get a cautionary tale in real time. Lance Berkman fell off the Hall of Fame ballot this year with less than five percent of the vote. Bobby Abreu will be on the ballot next year and many are already predicting the same fate for him. The Hall of Fame voting process is about many things, but the least of it may be actual value. To prove it, we will compare Berkman and Abreu to Hall of Fame outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.
Guerrero was voted in in 2018 with over 90 percent of the vote. It was only his second time on the ballot. His career and Abreu’s career overlapped exactly while Berkman came up a few seasons later. So, we will evaluate these three on four tests. The first one is the index itself. We will also look at advanced offensive metrics, fielding metrics, and finally we will look at how each performed in the MVP voting. We should always keep in mind that none of these tests prove anything. Heck, even if we take them in concert it doesn’t prove anything. What we are looking for is in how close they are in actual value.
Hall of Fame Index Test
Keep in mind that we are looking for gaps in data. We put Guerrero on top because we are supposed to think he is the best of the three. That didn’t turn out to be the case according to the career value numbers. The largest gap is actually between Abreu and the other two. The thing is that these numbers aren’t designed to prove one is more fit than another. Actually, they show quite the contrary. Either all three should be in or all three should be out. If you had to pick one based only on what you see above then you would surmise that Abreu would actually be the second ballot Hall of Famer.
Yet, we shouldn’t affirm that Guerrero was a mistake. There is nothing here to suggest that. The point is that players like Berkman and Abreu deserve far more consideration than what they got or what they are likely to get. As anyone that has been following the index knows, we can’t really say anything until we see the peak value numbers.
When we look at the peak value numbers we realize how similar these players really were in value. Unfortunately for Abreu and Berkman, that is where the similarities stopped. Guerrero had a cannon for an arm and could hit home runs off of his shoes. Berkman and Abreu were not nearly as gifted in the traditional sense, but both players brought secondary talent to the game. They got on base and they did it a lot. They were in many instances just as valuable defensively without the highlight reel plays.
The totals indicate all three players are equally defensible as Hall of Famers. They are also equally defensible as being on the outside looking in. Where the problem lies is when one gets a ton of support and the other two do not. However, we can’t say anything until moving on to the other tests.
The Offensive Test
It has been awhile since we have used these numbers, so a reintroduction is in order. OPS+, wRC+, and wOBA are from the same family of statistics. Essentially, it compares a player with the league average and adjusts accordingly. They are all slightly different. OPS+ obviously takes only OBP and SLG and weights it while adjusting for the home ballpark. wRC+ is the same except it does include some elements of base running. Weighted on base average is the same concept except it converts the numbers into a number that resembles OBP.
Offensive winning percentage assumes all nine hitters hit like that player and then calculates a winning percentage assuming an average pitching staff. Bases per out is a particularly valuable metric. Essentially, outs are the blood currency of the sport. So, you want to produce as many bases as you can through slugging, walking, and getting hits.
We bring all this up to give these numbers some context. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Berkman was a better hitter than either of the other two. He may not have done it quite as long as they did, but he was certainly better while he did it. So, why did he get less than five percent of the vote again?
The Fielding Test
This one is a little harder to read because they did not play the same position. Berkman spent considerable time in all three outfield positions in addition to first base. Abreu played both left and right field while Guerrero spent almost all of his time in right field. Since DWAR and win shares measure against the replacement level player you could see why Berkman would come out looking better given his time in center field. That being said, Guerrero appears to be the better fielder here, but by how much realistically?
The MVP Test
|Top 25||Top 10||Top 5||MVP||Points|
For those not up with the quick math, top 25 finishes are awarded one point, top ten finishes three points, top five finishes five points, and MVP awards are given ten points. We have to keep in mind that these scores don’t mean that Guerrero was better than the other two. It just means he was perceived to be better than the other two. This is where we get to the second part of the MVP test. That is where we compare their MVP voting totals to their rankings in single season bWAR.
|Top 10||Top 5||MVP||Points|
This turned out differently didn’t it? So, by actual production these three were actually very close. That is where the value numbers turned out as well. However Guerrero arrived at his reputation, that reputation got him in more than his actual production. I won’t begrudge him his spot, but it is clear that Berkman got the shaft and early indications are that Abreu probably will as well.