Hall of Fame Index: Shortstop and Third Base Update

We are combining these two positions because there are only three players combined that fit the bill at these two positions. There are a number of players in both spots that are a season away from qualifying. As we saw with Dustin Pedroia, there is a reason why we wait ten seasons to profile these players. Sometimes they fall right off the map and we will see that with one of the players we are profiling this time around.

Evan Longoria– San Francisco Giants

Slash: .241/.318/.446

BWAR: 1.8

FWAR: 1.4

WS/5: 1.8

Longoria is actually doing better than many of the guys we’ve profiled this season, but his decline is pretty typical. If 300 is the standard by which we put guys into the Hall of Fame, he is currently short of his goal. As of this writing, he has 45.4 WS/5 to go along 50.5 FWAR and 53.6 BWAR. In other words, he is relatively close if he can manage to throw up another couple of seasons like he has the last two.

Longoria has three seasons remaining on his contract, so the Giants are likely stuck with him anyway. Pablo Sandoval has eaten into his playing time this season. If he gets dealt before the deadline then Longoria could surge down the stretch and get to the 20 home run plateau. Longoria seems to be on the same kind of career path of guys like Scott Rolen and David Wright. No, they didn’t have the same career track, but they are guys that fans thought should have done more. That might have a more dramatic impact on his candidacy than any of the numbers themselves.

Elvis Andrus– Texas Rangers

Slash: .287/.323/.418

BWAR: 1.4

FWAR: 1.7

WS/5: 2.6

Andrus is only 30 years old, but he has been around since 2009. However, much of his game has been predicated on speed and defense. He has 22 steals so far this season, so he hasn’t seemed to have slowed down any. Some thought Andrus was taking the next step in 2017 when he developed some power, but that power has seemingly disappeared over the past two seasons.

Andrus has three more guaranteed seasons with the Rangers and then an option season for 2023. If he finishes his contract he will almost certainly surpass 2000 hits and 1000 runs scored. He will also surpass 300 steals as early as this season and has an outside chance at 400. Unfortunately, outside of that 2017 he hasn’t had any season that we could call a signature season. He has only two seasons with an .800 OPS or higher. Defensive metrics are not as high on his defense as many of the so-called pundits. He will probably be doing good to stay mediocre for the remainder of the contract.

Troy Tulowitzki– New York Yankees

Slash: .182/.308/.545

BWAR: 0.0

FWAR: 0.0

WS/5: 0.0

Tiulowitzki officially retired from baseball last week. It was a sad ending to a career where so much more was expected. The list of guys like Tulowitzki is long and distinguished. Essentially, it starts like “he would have been a Hall of Famer but…” In his case he really couldn’t stay on the field long enough to get the requisite value necessary to get in.

Tulowitzki missed most of 2017 and all of 2018 suffering through ankle injuries. He tried to make a go of it this season, but just couldn’t answer the bell after a few at bats in April. The writing was on the wall, but give him credit for recognizing it and immediately going to work as a college coach. Often players in that situation can linger and and try desperately to hold on to their dreams.

 

 

 

 

Hall of Fame Index: Second Base Update

With the induction ceremonies coming soon, we are updating the active players at each position to look at how they are strengthening (or not strengthening) their Hall of Fame case. We have four first baseman that qualify based on playing at least ten years and having a significant career. We do have several players in their ninth season as well, but we will ignore them for the time being.

Dustin Pedroia– Boston Red Sox

Slash: .100/.143/.100

BWAR: -0.5

FWAR: -0.4

WS/5: 0.0

There is a reason why we wait ten years and Pedroia is the poster child for that. He may never play again because of his knee injury. He hasn’t done anything of note for nearly two seasons. Time marches on and so do the Red Sox. They called up Michael Chavis and it’s iike nothing has happened there. Father Time is undefeated and it looks like he has taken another victim.

Ben Zobrist– Chicago Cubs

Slash: .241/.343/.253

BWAR: -0.2

FWAR: 0.1

WS/5: 0.4

Zobrist has taken most of 2019 off because he is going through a nasty divorce. Let’s take a moment and acknowledge how creepy it is that we actually know this. Supposedly, he is ready to go on a rehabilitation assignment and return. There is still time to salvage some of the season. He doesn’t have a whole lot of time left until his career comes to a close. He might be able to get another decent season or two in and if he does he has a decent chance.

Daniel Murphy– Colorado Rockies

Slash: .287/.338/.481

BWAR: 0.2

FWAR: 0.0

WS/5: 1.0

Murphy is a good example of what happens when you bring only half of the game to the table.  He has put up some huge numbers offensively, but he doesn’t bring a ton of defensive value to the table. Even when you look at his numbers this year you see that he hits well, but when you play half of your games in the mile high city you are expected to put up huge numbers.

Starlin Castro– Miami Marlins

Slash: .248/.274/.356

BWAR: -0.6

FWAR: -0.6

WS/5: 0.8

Castro is 29 years old and has over 1500 hits. If he continues to play every day for the next five years he will surpass 2000 hits and may even surpass 1000 runs and 1000 RBI if he plays long enough. He still won’t come anywhere near the value necessary to get into the Hall of Fame. Still, there will be those that would vote for anyone that surpasses a certain number of hits, runs, and RBI.

Robinson Cano– New York Mets

Slash: .250/.295/.410

BWAR: -0.1

FWAR: 0.0

WS/5: 0.6

Cano just had a three home run game. Great players can always muster up greatness even when they aren’t great anymore. Maybe he can muster a month or two of greatness. If he can do that his numbers might even look close to career norms. The problem is that he was busted for PEDs last season, so there will be those that think he is washed up. He needs a strong August and September to prove the end is not near.

Ian Kinsler– San Diego Padres

Slash: .214/.274/.357

BWAR: -0.3

FWAR: -0.4

WS/5: 0.6

Here we see another aging player spinning his wheels. The difference is that he can at least field his position a little. He got off to an absolutely dreadful start, so maybe he can right the ship some if the Padres allow him to keep playing. Given the circumstances, they probably want to allow younger players to take over given their situation. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for aging veterans like Kinsler. This might be his swan song.

 

 

Hall of Fame Index: First Base Update

With the induction ceremonies coming soon, we are updating the active players at each position to look at how they are strengthening (or not strengthening) their Hall of Fame case. We have four first baseman that qualify based on playing at least ten years and having a significant career. We do have several players in their ninth season as well, but we will ignore them for the time being.

Miguel Cabrera–Detroit Tigers

Slash: .283/.346/.373

BWAR: -0.1

FWAR: -0.3

WS/5: 1.4

Father Time is undefeated. The good news is that Cabrera has been healthy this season. He will add over 100 hits and 50 RBI to his resume. He will clearly 2800 hits some time next season if he doesn’t get there this season and will clear 1700 RBI for his career. He is in the Hall of Fame, but the value numbers above reflect that he is merely accumulating numbers at this point.

Of course, the problem for the Tigers is that they have signed him through 2023 with options for 2024 and 2025. If you are Cabrera do you continue to play and collect a paycheck or do you hang it up because you clearly aren’t the same guy? Could he end up with a contender and rejuvinate himself?

Edwin Encarnacion– New York Yankees

Slash: .223/.332/.515

BWAR: 2.0

FWAR: 1.7

WS/5: 2.6

In 2012, Encarnacion became Encarnacion. He hit 42 home runs and drove in 110 runs. Between 2012 and 2018 he averaged over 100 RBI a season. He averaged about 35 home runs a season. His OPS was somewhere around .900 over that time as well. 2012 was the only season with five or more wins in BWAR. 2019 is more of the same. No, he likely won’t have a .900 OPS, but he will get to 30 home runs and 100 RBI if he is healthy. That will be eight seasons of heavy production.

As of this writing, he sits at 34.2 BWAR. He likely will be at 35 wins after the season. So, when he finally retires, he will likely be over 2000 hits, 1200 runs, 1400 RBI, and 450 home runs. Yet, he won’t get to 300 in the index. You have to have some fielding value to get into the Hall of Fame. He just doesn’t have it.

Albert Pujols–Los Angeles Angels

Slash: .247/.311/.445

BWAR: 0.4

FWAR: 0.2

WS/5: 1.2

Pujols has had a bit of a resurgence this season in that he is actually adding some value. He also surpassed 2000 RBI for his career. He stands fifth all-time in RBI. When you see that he is 19th in runs scored that is a perfect microcosm of where he has been over the past several seasons. It’s why you have to be careful about paying attention to individual numbers. He drives in runs. He doesn’t do much else these days.

With the positive output so far, he is back over 100 wins for his career. That firmly puts him second all-time amongst first baseman to the great Lou Gehrig. He isn’t catching Gehrig. So, he really can’t add to the legacy in any real way beyond creeping up the all-time lists in home runs, hits, runs, and RBI.

Joey Votto–Cincinnati Reds

Slash: .256/.346/.393

BWAR: 0.5

FWAR: 0.2

WS/5: 1.2

This is yet another example of what happens when Father Time catches up with you. It’s hard to believe that Votto is 35 and what has happened to him is predictable. He still gets on base at a healthy clip. When this season is over it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him hitting back around .280 and getting on base at a .370 clip. That’s impressive at any age. A sluggling percentage barely over .400 is not impressive at any age.

The question is whether he will add enough value over the next couple of years to get into the Hall of Fame. He will likely get to 2000 hits, 1000 runs, and 1000 RBI, but not much beyond that. He might get to 300 home runs, but he won’t get to 400. It will take imagination to vote for him. He will be a different kind of candidate and it remains to be seen whether the BBWAAA will have the imagination to put him in.

HOF Index Update: Catchers

We normally update these numbers when the season is over, but that doesn’t leave a lot for us to do during the season. So, we will take a look at the current catchers and see if they are adding to their Hall of Fame resumes this season. We have already profiled Russell Martin, Brian McCann, and Yadier Molina. We will be adding Buster Posey to the conversation.

Russell Martin– Los Angeles Dodgers

Slash: .225/.358/.295

BWAR: 0.4

FWAR: 0.6

WS/5: 0.8

The Dodgers brough Martin back to be a backup catcher, so it is not a huge surprise that he is not producing a ton of value. You can’t produce a ton of value in 159 plate appearances after all. He has been near the end for a few years now. He gets on base at a very healthy clip, but an isolated power north of .200 since 2015. This season may end up being his last one. He’s had a nice career, but when you look at the counting numbers you don’t see any of the normal markers that the BBWAA are looking for.

Brian McCann– Atlanta Braves

Slash: .268/.335/.447

BWAR: 0.6

FWAR: 0.8

WS/5: 1.4

McCann has had the best season of all of the catchers on this list. If he continues on his current pace he will hit about 12 home runs and drive in 50 runs. This all the while platooning with Tyler Flowers. He also surpassed 1000 RBIs this year. That may not be enough to get him in, but it is enough to get him into a conversation. This may be his last rodeo and if it is it has been a good final season.

Yadier Molina– St. Louis Cardinals

Slash: .261/.286/.368

BWAR: 0.1

FWAR: -0.2

WS/5: 1.8

It’s always interesting to see how different platforms treat different guys. The WAR categories seem to think he is replacement level where win shares thinks fairly high of him. It almost certainly has something to do with fielding. Pitch framing data is fairly new and it doesn’t like Molina. Win shares doesn’t necessarily use that. Molina is what we would call an accumulator. He has more than 2000 hits. If he continues playing he could reach 1000 RBI and 800 runs scored if he continues to play through 2020.

Buster Posey– San Francisco Giants

Slash: .259/.320/.395

BWAR: 0.3

FWAR: 1.4

WS/5: 1.6

Posey has just started to heat up, so this may look considerably different when the season ends. However, the decline is noticeable. He hit five home runs last season and has only five this season. This is after eight consecutive seasons that saw him produce 12 or more when healthy. He is still producing defensively and that is why he is strong in both win shares and FWAR.

Why do we wait ten years?

I had one of those interesting debates that always seems to happen on Twitter. Someone asked a question about who was the greatest hitter of our generation and the answers tended towards the usual suspects. The name left out was the one the shocked me the most. No one mentioned the name Albert Pujols. It seemed shocking considering he just surpassed 2000 RBI this season and has over 600 home runs.

If we adjust that for our purposes, we know that he is currently the second most valuable first baseman in history according to the Hall of Fame Index. Normally, we would say he has time to get to the top spot, but the last several seasons have shown that he is spinning his wheels in terms of value.

This brings us to the topic of the conversation. Why do we wait ten seasons to include players in the index? The player most mentioned in that poll was Mike Trout of the Angels. Yes, he is currently the best player in the game. At least he is when we consider multiple seasons. I didn’t mention him because he just hasn’t been doing it long enough. I remember watching him come up in 2011.

Is he a Hall of Famer? I would say the Vegas odds are pretty good at this point considering his index score would already put him there. However, making such a prognostication ignores all of the possibilities that could occur from this point forward. Let’s compare Trout through season eight to other prominent players in history through season eight and tell me what you notice. I’ll ignore the index and simply go with OPS+.

Player A: 171

Player B: 175

Player C: 164

Who are these three? Well, we know Pujols and Trout (A and B), but what about Dick Allen? Allen wasn’t quite as good as those two, but he was pretty darn close through year nine of his career. Add in another season and he was pretty darn good through year ten. What happened to him after that? Well, it was a variety of things. We could blame it on injuries, but there was also a portion that could be attributed to the fact that teams got tired of dealing with him.

Every position has guys like Allen. I could make a veritable all-star team of players that could be Hall of Famers that fell off the table for one reason or another. We can start from one of the players currently active. Has anyone been tracking what has happened to Buster Posey lately? Two years ago he looked like one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game. It’s been a disaster since then. So, let’s take a look at the greats through their first eight full seasons and what happened to them after that. We will look merely at bWAR just for fun.

Catcher: Buster Posey (38.3 vs 3.1)

First Base: Don Mattingly (34.4 vs 8.0)

Second Base: Carlos Baerga (20.6 vs -1.0)

Third Base: David Wright (39.1 vs. 11.3)

Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra (42.3 vs 1.9)

Left Field: Albert Belle (36.2 vs. 3.9)

Center Field: Cesar Cedeno (39.8 vs. 13.0)

Right Field: Tony Oliva (42.2 vs. 0.9)

What does all of this have to do with Trout? Well, these were all players that most of us would have sworn would be Hall of Famers after their first eight full seasons. Well, Baerga may be an exception there, but you get the idea. Anything can happen at any time. Trout may turn into one of these guys. He could turn into another Pujols and that wouldn’t be all that bad either.

A large part of the calculus of determining who is the best at anything depends greatly on how that player ages. We don’t know that in Trout’s case. He is at the heighth of his powers and that is a horrible time to judge anything. We can apply complex mathematical models to guess how he might age, but there is really no telling what might happen. He might age like Willie Mays or Ted Williams and he might age like one of the guys above. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but that guesswork short changes not only everyone else, but Trout himself.

He deserves the opportunity to continue his career. When he gets to the ten year mark we will start profiling him in earnest, but even then he deserves the benefit of enjoying a full career arc before we make any lasting declarations. That’s all part of the process and all eight guys above serve as cautionary tales.

 

 

 

 

Hall of Fame Index: Pre World War II Pitcher Tiers

t’s been a long process, but we have finally come to the end of our look at starting pitchers. As we saw with the post-World War II pitchers, we needed space for more than 50 names on the list. Technically, we did the same 75 as last time, but that was a little harder and we lost some fidelity at the end of the list. We will address that later. The overall idea is the same as all of the other positions.

We will break these pitchers into five tiers to give us an idea of which pitchers are really pressing concerns in terms of being out of the Hall of Fame. It also highlights some of the mistakes that the BBWAA and Veterans Committee have made over the years. As I have said many times, the key question is not whether any particular pitcher belongs in the Hall of Fame, but whether any particular pitcher is the most qualified pitcher not currently in the Hall of Fame.

We are looking for gaps in data. Those gaps tell us where the tiers are. Most people would simply go 15 pitchers per tier and that is the general idea, but we let the data determine where the tiers should be. The implication is that index does not rank order players absolutely, but it can split up groups of players into groups of similar value.

Tier One

 CareerPeakIndex
Walter Johnson (B)402.9274.5677.4
Cy Young (B)422.7245.1667.8
Kid Nichols (V)290.1243.0533.1
Pete Alexander (B)312.1215.2527.3
Christy Mathewson (B)285.6227.4513.0
Lefty Grove (B)274.0195.0469.0
John Clarkson (V)229.7224.0453.7
Tim Keefe (V)240.0210.3450.3
Pud Galvin (V)216.9190.0406.9
Charles Radbourn (V)204.7200.9405.6
Eddie Plank (B)234.7159.6394.3
Tony Mullane200.0182.3382.3

We split the Hall of Famers into (B) and (V) to differentiate between those selected by the beat writers and those selected by the Veterans Committee. In point of fact, the 19thcentury pitchers were actually selected by something called the Old Timers Committee. The Hall of Fame had a problem when it started in the mid 1930s. None of the current beat writers had covered the game in the 19thcentury, so none of the initial class had played during the game’s early period.

As we noted in those articles, this presented a problem because historians had to go back and look at the numbers without having a living context for how those numbers were achieved. So, pitchers with 300 or more victories were admitted into the Hall of Fame and pitchers that came up short like Mullane were left out. Modern pitchers have the benefit of having the sports writers actually watch the games. They know that someone that doesn’t win 300 games may have a good excuse for that.

As for the rankings itself, I want to reiterate again that the index was not meant to rank order players at any position. The game was so different between the time that Grove pitched and even a Mathewson that comparing the two directly is next to impossible. This is particularly true when looking at Kid Nichols and any of the 20thcentury pitchers. We will say they are similar in terms of value and leave it at that.

Tier Two

 CareerPeakIndex
Bob Caruthers177.2177.2354.4
Mickey Welch (V)177.2167.6344.8
Rube Waddell (V)174.2165.0339.2
Carl Hubbell (V)185.8153.0338.8
Jim Whitney166.6166.6333.2
Ed Walsh (V)168.0160.3328.3
Dazzy Vance (V)169.8157.4327.2
Charlie Buffinton162.1162.6324.7
Red Ruffing (B)189.4127.4316.8
Vic Willis (V)171.5142.4313.9
Clark Griffith (V)165.6147.6313.2
Wes Ferrell158.1150.9309.0
Mordecai Brown (V)165.9141.8307.7
Joe McGinnity (V)152.1152.1304.2
Eppa Rixey (V)184.7119.2303.9
Ted Lyons (V)187.7115.0302.7

You will notice that most pitchers elected from the pre-World War II era were selected by the Veterans Committee. This makes perfect sense because most of these selections didn’t occur until the 1940s and 1950s. That would be as much as 20 or 30 years after they were done pitching. The general idea here is the same as with Bill James’ similarity scores. If you are similar to Hall of Famers then your case for enshrinement is much better.

However, the fact that so many are Veterans Committee selections is alarming historically. The Veterans Committee has gotten a bad rap for selecting players that don’t meet the profile of a typical Hall of Famer. This is the reason for the tiered system. Most of these guys are 19thcentury guys, but Ferrell sticks out as someone that deserves another look.

What we saw with the post-WW2 selections is that both tier one and tier two were full of legitimate Hall of Famers. This is what happens when you go from the top 50 to top 75 players. So, you could comfortably put all of these players in the Hall of Fame and justify it historically. Obviously, you can’t do that in one broad brush, so you will have to take what is there and justify it historically in addition to the index.

Tier Three

 CareerPeakIndex
Jack Stivetts147.5148.0295.5
Silver King146.8146.9293.7
Red Faber (V)177.0115.5292.5
Eddie Cicotte156.4135.8292.2
Wilbur Cooper151.3137.2288.5
Burleigh Grimes (V)162.2124.4286.6
Jack Quinn177.1106.6283.7
Urban Shocker143.7135.5279.2
Jack Powell161.2116.2277.4
George Uhle147.2129.1276.3
Al Orth145.9123.8269.7
George Mullin139.7127.5267.2
Jesse Tannehill134.2131.2265.4

Tier three is when we start to leave obvious Hall of Famers and we only see occasional blips on the radar. I hesitate to call anyone a mistake outright. This is particularly true in tier three. We can make credible arguments for just about any of these guys and that is also true for Faber and Grimes. Grimes has some cache as the last legal spit-baller, but otherwise you can throw these guys into a box.

Of course, that is the way that tiers are supposed to work. When you aren’t familiar with a pitcher you can learn more about them by comparing them with names you are familiar with. I tend to hate the “if…then” argument, but it works when you start comparing them with larger groups.

Again, I can’t take credit for the concept of tiers. James’ started this with similarity scores. The idea of comparing a player with ten to fifteen other guys makes perfect sense. Most of these guys are not Hall of Famers, so Grimes and Faber are officially outliers. We could justify their place with other tests, but the index doesn’t make them look that good.

Tier Four

CareerPeakIndex
Tommy Bridges 142.2118.5260.7
Herb Pennock (V)141.4117.6259.0
Mel Harder138.7120.3259.0
Babe Adams151.0105.2256.2
Waite Hoyt (V)153.9101.8255.7
Chief Bender (V)140.9114.1255.0
Carl Mays138.8115.1253.9
Jack Chesbro (V)124.7126.7251.4
Dolf Luque135.0115.3250.3
Hippo Vaughn129.3118.4247.7
Dizzy Dean (B)122.9122.2245.1
Lon Warnake126.7117.3244.0
Ted Breitenstein121.3122.6243.9
Doc White127.7114.8242.5
Larry French132.5107.5240.0
Frank Dwyer120.8118.6239.4

These things always happen. For whatever reason, we see more tier four Hall of Famers than tier three Hall of Famers. I’m not really sure why that happens, but we can identify commonalities between these players. They all pitched for historically great teams. Pitchers and position players are really no different in this regard. Their numbers tend to look better when they play for a great team. I’m really not breaking any new ground here.

However, the question with the pitchers is the same as it was with the position players. Were those teams great because they were there or were their numbers good because their teams were great? Often times, the answer is some of both. Great teams need good players to be great, but those good players will often look better than what they are.

Of course, this is not completely cut and dried. When you pitch for great teams you also pitch in big moments. Those big moments can define your career and if you perform well in those big moments it could help throw you over the top. The problem is that things like playoff performance and big moments were meant to be tiebreakers. None of these pitchers is particularly close.

Tier Five

 CareerPeakIndex
Bobby Mathews135.698.1233.7
Pink Hawley116.4116.4232.8
Bob Shawkey125.3105.5230.8
Nap Rucker114.7114.7229.4
Sam Leever116.6108.2224.8
Kid Gleason133.090.8223.8
Eddie Rommel118.2105.5223.7
Lefty Gomez (V)110.0109.9219.9
Red Lucas113.8102.4216.2
Rube Marquard (V)119.795.0214.7
Bill Dinneen109.1104.2213.3
Sad Sam Jones131.679.3210.9
Smoky Joe Wood112.497.9210.3
Howard Ehmke104.097.2201.2
Bullet Joe Bush106.494.7201.1
Curt Davis105.392.2197.5
Jeff Pfeffer99.597.6197.1
Jesse Haines (V)106.572.4178.9

Haines is really not the 75thmost valuable pitcher from the era. He was profiled because he was elected to the Hall of Fame. He likely would finish between 80 and 85 if we went back and added some more pitchers to the profile. So, he is the least qualified member of the Hall of Fame from the period, but Lefty Gomez and Rube Marquard aren’t that far behind.

Again, I hesitate to absolutely declare anyone a mistake, but those three stick out like sore thumbs. Marquard and Gomez have things in their favor that make sense, but Haines is just not qualified. I’m not really sure what the Veterans Committee was thinking, but they weren’t looking out for the best interest of the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Index: 19th Century Pitchers OLI

At some point we have to admit this is all an academic exercise. Some people have a tremendous amount of influence. Millions read “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame” by Bill James and that book may have influenced some in the Veterans Committee to finally admit George Davis into the Hall of Fame. Millions of people are not reading this blog. We can safely those numbers aren’t even in the thousands.

Even if an influential person read it, it is highly unlikely that anyone that played in the 19thcentury would be added. Some of these names might be familiar to you because others have championed them before. The problem is a marketing one. They are all dead. Their children are likely dead. Their grandchildren may still be with us, but no one knows who they are. Who is going to travel across the country to watch Tony Mullane’s grandson or great grandson make a speech?

That sounds disrespectful and it is, but it is also the truth. The most respectful thing we can do is look at their careers in the same prism we looked at the Hall of Famers from the period. Maybe they are where they should be, but it is just as likely they were wrongfully overlooked. We can’t do much about that either way, but let’s take a fresh look.

Career Value

 BWARFWARWS/5Total
Tony Mullane66.553.779.8200.0
Bob Caruthers59.650.267.4177.2
Jim Whitney56.155.555.0166.6
Charlie Buffinton60.744.856.6162.1
Jack Stivetts48.542.057.0147.5
Silver King50.443.852.6146.8

In a perfect world, everyone that clears a certain threshold would get into the Hall of Fame. We don’t live in a perfect world. There are all kinds of considerations in play. How many 19thcentury pitchers have we already put in? How many really deserve the honor? Usually, these things work themselves out, but the 19thcentury wasn’t a normal time for baseball. If a player goes out and throws 500 innings in a season, he is going to be valuable in the way we define it. He will have had an impact on his team’s wins. He also would have had an impact on their losses. An average pitcher will look good in that kind of environment.

So, while we love the index here, we might have to look at the conventional numbers a little harder before deciding. Certainly, Mullane and Caruthers look strong going in. What we know is that many of these pitchers only lasted about a decade because of the heavy workloads. It might be a rare instance where the index doesn’t really tell us what we need to know.

This is where we lean on the index as a comparative tool and not an absolute. Most of these guys will wind up with more than 300 index wins. Normally, that would be enough, but we need to compare them with the rest of the pitchers from the 19thcentury. Maybe the 300 win plateau is not the line of demarcation. Of the seven pitchers we profiled last time, five had index scores north of 400 wins. Mickey Welch came in just shy of 350 and Clark Griffith can be seen as a pioneer, so we could ignore his score. So, maybe 350 is the new benchmark.

Peak Value

 BWARFWARWS/5TotalIndex
Tony Mullane62.846.772.8182.3382.3
Bob Caruthers59.650.267.4177.2354.4
Jim Whitney56.155.555.0166.6333.2
Charlie Buffinton61.644.856.2162.6324.7
Jack Stivetts49.242.056.8148.0295.5
Silver King50.543.852.6146.9293.7

When we think of the index in terms of looking for gaps we are always going to be better off. If Welch is the minimum standard then we are looking at two additional Hall of Famers and not four. That is certainly more palatable and makes the cases for Mullane and Caruthers that much stronger. Of course, it wasn’t meant to say that Caruthers is definitely in or that Whitney is definitely out.

The index sets the stage for debate. It can provide a basis for the debate, but it was never designed to end it. For instance, it will not be the final word on any of these players, but it does tell us that Stivetts and King have a huge uphill climb. Whitney and Buffinton have better cases, but they still have something to prove. On the flip side, Mullane is pretty much in unless something really drastic happens to change our minds.

This is where the traditional numbers come in. They help explain why a player was overlooked, but they also provide additional evidence one way or another on a pitcher’s candidacy. None of these pitchers won 300 games. That’s a tremendous amount of evidence by itself. Modern sports writers know that there is much more to pitching than won-loss records. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the benefit of modern sports writers.

Pitching Statistics

 WinsPCTERA+SO/9BB/9HR/9
Tony Mullane284.5631173.62.80.2
Bob Caruthers218.6881222.91.90.2
Jim Whitney191.4841054.01.10.2
Charlie Buffinton233.6051154.52.30.2
Jack Stivetts203.6061203.83.60.4
Silver King203.5721213.52.70.2

Two things immediately stick out here. First, Caruthers pitching numbers are absolutely brilliant. If we counted him with the 20thand 21stcenturies we would see that he stands second to Whitey Ford in career winning percentage. He also had the best ERA+ of the bunch. So, we can safely say his case just got a whole lot stronger. Whitney would appear to be the opposite at first blush, but this is where the defensive independent pitching statistics (DIPS) come in. He had the lowest walk rate and tied for the lowest home run rate. So, why was his ERA+ so much worse?

Well, his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) came in nearly a quarter of a run lower (2.75) than his actual ERA (2.97). He led the league in FIP on two occasions, but never led the league in ERA. In many of his big loss seasons, the distance between the two was even greater. This is where the quality of team comes into play. Yes, we know pitchers can control the type of contact a hitter makes to a certain extent, but they can’t control whether the fielders behind him are butchers or not.

Caruthers career ERA was considerably lower (2.83 vs. 3.27) than his FIP. So, we can ask questions based on this fact. Was that because he was adept at getting hitters to hit to the strong part of the defense? Maybe. Was it more of a factor of luck that he played on better teams? Maybe. As is usually the case, it is probably a combination of these. Still, having a pitcher with a strikeout to walk ratio better than three to one when his contemporaries couldn’t muster a two to one ratio is eye-catching and worth exploring.

Playoff Pitching

 W-LINNERASO/9BB/9HR/9
Bob Caruthers7-8147.02.513.21.70.6
Silver King2-666.02.184.51.50.0
Jack Stivetts2-029.00.935.32.20.3
Tony Mullane
Jim Whitney
Charlie Buffinton

These numbers are rarely ever cut and dried. This is the main reason why we look at multiple numbers. On the one hand, Caruthers did pitch better in playoff conditions than in the regular season. His walk rate dropped slightly, and his strikeout rate increased slightly. Those are all good things. However, his won-loss record looks rather pedestrian. The same is true for Silver King despite some good pitching numbers.

How does this happen and why does it matter? Well, on the first count it happens because the competitive balance in the game at the time was out of whack. So, Caruthers and King likely beat up on weak competition during the season, but could not do that during the playoffs. It doesn’t matter in any real sense because of the sample sizes involved, but it does serve to illustrate the problems with looking at won-loss records in general. There is so much that is out of the pitcher’s control.

The three pitchers that didn’t pitch in the postseason illustrate the point in a different way. Their teams were not good enough to get there. Yet, two of them were good enough to win a majority of their games anyway. As we know, Whitney was not, but that probably had more to do with his team than him.

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Tony Mullane44032
Charlie Buffinton23131
Jim Whitney15028
Silver King11228
Bob Caruthers14023
Jack Stivetts12013

Keep in mind that leagues vacillated between eight and twelve teams during those days. Most teams had one or maybe two primary pitchers. So, finishing in the top ten was not as impressive as it would be today. So, we could look at top five finishes and Cy Youngs and come out more impressed with King than we were before. Just eyeballing the numbers above, the results would be slightly different, but still pretty close.

It seems pretty clear that Mullane belongs in the Hall of Fame. I’m not sure that will ever be rectified, but we can at least give him his due. Caruthers is an interesting case. He doesn’t fare quite as well here which indicates his won-loss record was greatly inflated. That’s always true. Ford was not the best pitcher in the game at the time in spite of his awesome won-loss record. He was one of the best though and the same is true of Caruthers. That should have been enough to get him in as well.