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.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s