Hall of Fame Index: HOF Pitchers between 1980-2000

Occasionally, when we look at the writers’ selections, we end up seeing an outlier. The term “outlier” is one of those fancy statistical terms that represents data that does not seem to fit the pattern. We could call it a mistake, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to label any selection as a mistake per se. It is far more accurate (and fair) to simply call it an outlier. However, we can turn it into a game. Think back when you took the SAT. Which of the profiled players does not belong?

As we go through the Hall of Famers that retired between 1980 and 2000 we notice a few things. I will not throw the table up that we did last time because there is no new data to report. Essentially, we are seeing strikeouts decrease as we go further back in time. We are also seeing innings per season increase. Oddly enough, we don’t necessarily see a huge difference in the number of innings. It’s all in how they are distributed. We will look at the index, standard pitching numbers, playoff performance, and the two Cy Young tests. Let’s see if you can identify our outlier.

Career Value

Tom Seaver109.992.477.6274.9
Bert Blyleven94.4102.967.8265.1
Gaylord Perry90.0100.173.8263.9
Steve Carlton90.296.573.2259.9
Nolan Ryan81.2106.766.8254.7
Phil Niekro95.978.174.8248.8
Ferguson Jenkins84.180.164.6228.8
Don Sutton66.785.563.8216.0
Jim Palmer68.456.662.4187.4
Jack Morris43.455.845.0144.2

I could start with the obvious, but these numbers illustrate a couple of very important points as it pertains to the index itself. Tom Seaver is the top pitcher in the group according to win shares and BWAR. He is the fifth most valuable pitcher according to FWAR. I used these three platforms because they often don’t agree on the value of players. If I used a single source I wouldn’t necessarily get the kind of results that jive with our perception of history. Even with this methodology we sometimes don’t.

That brings me to the second point and something I have said dozens of times in past articles. The index was never designed to rank order players. Is Blyleven really a better career value pitcher than Gaylord Perry? Are either of them better than Steve Carlton? That is not for me to say. At least it isn’t with this data. What I can say is that nine out of ten of these pitchers were obvious fits for the Hall of Fame.

You’ve honed in on Jack Morris by now. Heck, most of you probably already knew the answer before seeing a number. Morris’ problem will come into focus when we look at the conventional pitching numbers. I’ll even throw in a comparison to further illustrate the point. It’s hard to call his selection a mistake outright, but it’s hard to defend based on these numbers.

Peak Value

Tom Seaver77.066.250.0193.2468.1
Gaylord Perry63.662.148.2173.9437.8
Ferguson Jenkins61.561.045.2167.7396.5
Phil Niekro63.350.745.4159.4408.2
Steve Carlton58.155.543.4157.0416.9
Bert Blyleven55.962.338.2156.4421.5
Jim Palmer57.046.348.2151.5338.9
Nolan Ryan44.953.235.0133.1387.8
Don Sutton38.645.735.4119.7335.7
Jack Morris36.042.233.6111.6255.8

Peak value serves two main purposes. First, it adds depth to a career profile. Jim Palmer looked deficient when we looked at only career value, but he jumps a little when we throw in peak value. Sutton is the inverse. He falls a little when we consider peak value. This gives both of their careers depth and promotes a greater understanding of the kind of pitchers they were. Sutton was never very good, but he was solid to good for a long time. Palmer’s career was relatively short, but he was very good during his prime.

The second thing peak value does for us is that it gives us another opportunity to create separation where it exists. Seaver is the most valuable career value pitcher and the most valuable peak value pitcher. The effect of both is to create more separation between him and Perry. Of course, the inverse is also true. Morris was tenth in career value and tenth in peak value. The overall outlook is not good for him and he trails the next closest pitcher on the list by more than 80 wins.

As it turns out, Sutton and Morris are somewhat comparable when we look at peak value, so we will highlight some additional information that will help put their careers in some context. In some cases they are very similar and others they are not. It’s easy to look at one number and come to a hasty conclusion. We want to consider all of the evidence before making a final recommendation. Morris appears unqualified, but we will run through the other tests to see if that really is the case.

Pitching Statistics

Tom Seaver311.6031276.82.60.7
Gaylord Perry314.5421175.92.30.7
Bert Blyleven287.5341186.72.40.8
Steve Carlton329.5741157.13.20.7
Phil Niekro318.5371155.63.00.8
Ferguson Jenkins284.5571156.42.01.0
Nolan Ryan324.5261129.54.70.5
Jim Palmer268.6381255.03.00.7
Don Sutton324.5591086.12.30.8
Jack Morris254.5771055.83.30.9

It’s pretty obvious that Sutton and Morris are kind of on an island by themselves. This can clearly be seen when we look at ERA+. Out of all of the statistics above, that one is the best barometer of pitcher quality. So, it would be easy to say that Sutton only got in because he won 300+ games. There are some kernels of truth to that, but it goes beyond that when we start looking at concepts of value.

The word on Morris is that he just knew how to win. He is second on the list above in winning percentage, so I guess if you buy into that sort of thing then you get the appeal. On the flip side, you get those that bemoan the fact that he has the highest ERA (3.90) of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame. That is tortured logic as well. Someone has to have the highest this or the lowest that in the Hall of Fame. We are mainly looking for gaps. However, let’s do some deep diving and see what the appreciable difference is between Sutton and Morris.

 200+ INN120 ERA+5+ BWAR2+ BWAR

This is one of the subtle points that people don’t get about statistics like WAR and win shares. Being average or above average has value. It may not be overwhelming, but it adds up over time. If you look at the seasons with five or more BWAR and an ERA+ of 120 or greater then you’d see it was a dead heat. If you look at the sheer number of seasons where they were solid but not great then you can see the difference between Morris and Sutton.

When you can throw 200 or more innings (or on pace to as both were in 1981) more than 20 times then you are bound to accumulate some numbers. So, it would be fair to say that Sutton was never great, but he was solid to good for a very long time. Morris was also rarely great, but did not enjoy the longevity. Sure, he was the winningest pitcher in the 1980s. That and three bucks might get you a cup of coffee. Morris was legitimately good when he was at his best, but he just didn’t sustain it long enough.

Of course, conventional numbers and the index are not the only considerations. Morris does have the reputation as a great playoff pitcher. Playoff performance doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the index or the conventional numbers. How much weight you give to it is up to the individual person, but we should first check to see if the reputation was justisfied.

Playoff Performance

Jim Palmer8-3124.12.616.53.60.7
Don Sutton6-4100.13.685.51.41.1
Steve Carlton6-699.
Jack Morris7-492.13.806.23.10.9
Tom Seaver3-361.22.777.42.30.9
Nolan Ryan2-
Bert Blyleven5-147.12.476.81.51.0
Gaylord Perry1-
Phil Niekro0-114.03.865.51.41.1
Ferguson Jenkins

This is where analysis gets difficult. Are careers made up of individual moments or are they made up of the collective whole? Morris had some great moments. Game seven of the 1991 World Series might have been one of the best pitching performances in the history of the World Series. However, we aren’t putting Don Larsen or Brandon Backe in the Hall of Fame. Brilliant individual performances are what makes being a fan worthwhile, but is that how we are supposed to judge guys like that?

In the aggregate, Morris was what he had always been. He’s a guy that won more games than he lost, but the overall numbers were a bit underwhelming. Again, some of that might have been a bad final season of playoff performance. Yet, when you look at the numbers for everyone else you see that even Perry pitched well in accordance with his rate statistics. He had some bad batted ball luck. His numbers should have been better than Palmer’s, but Palmer is the one with a sparkling 8-3 record and 2.61 ERA. 

It’s also funny how certain guys got certain reputations during their time. Blyleven had to wait over a decade to get into the Hall of Fame because people saw him as a compiler and as someone that shrunk in big moments. Those numbers don’t look like the numbers of someone who folded when the chips were down. This is why we keep numbers in the first place. Our perceptions often become skewed over time.

Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Tom Seaver25361
Jim Palmer05355
Steve Carlton02450
Nolan Ryan26036
Ferguson Jenkins14133
Gaylord Perry12233
Jack Morris25031
Don Sutton05025
Phil Niekro23021
Bert Blyleven13018

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Tom Seaver38379
Bert Blyleven47267
Phil Niekro64258
Gaylord Perry63253
Steve Carlton32349
Jim Palmer44142
Ferguson Jenkins35034
Nolan Ryan35034
Jack Morris32019
Don Sutton13018

We make our sacrifice to the God of wins. As we move back in the 1960s and 1970s we see that the pitcher that won the most games was usually considered the best pitcher. That represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what the starting pitcher can and can’t control. We often see successful pitchers win, but that doesn’t always happen. In 1987, Nolan Ryan led the league in ERA and strikeouts, but managed only a 8-16 record. His fault? Did he just not know how to win?

Blyleven was consistently hurt by this. He won 20 games once despite leading the league in ERA+ once and in fielding independent pitching twice. He had six straight seasons with 250 or more innings and nine consecutive seasons with 216 or more. There were ample opportunities, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Lee Sinins installed a neutral wins and losses metric in his encyclopedia years ago. It was built on the notion of league average run support. That certainly helps, but it doesn’t account for no decisions.

All of this is to say that Cy Young points are proof of perception against actual performance. It does not prove anything else necessarily, but it is a piece of the puzzle. We add all the pieces together and we still see Morris as an outlier. This will become increasingly apparent when we look at starting pitching tiers later on.

Hall of Fame: Recent Retirees on the outside looking in

One of the side discussions as it pertains to pitching is the lamenting of the fact that pitchers don’t pitch deep into games anymore. Back when the men were men and the sheep were nervous, pitchers routinely completed games and often threw 300 innings a season or more. This has a way of clouding the picture as it pertains to pitchers. The wins rule was devised when pitchers completed their own games. If a pitcher always went nine innings then it is easy to hold him responsible for the win or loss.

When pitchers started going seven innings instead of nine that rule became a little more dicey. Now that good starting pitchers routinely only go six innings, there are far too many variables to consider. A reliever or two could blow a lead. The fielders behind the pitcher could be really good or really bad. Obviously, run support is an issue. Throw all of those together and you can see why wins is not an effective way to evaluate a pitcher.

We say all this to combat the notion that today’s pitchers are not as good as those in the past. I don’t know if It is fair to characterize any era as better or worse than another. We try to analyze players within their own time and place. When you look at a ton of data you begin to notice things. This will be my third article on just the recently retired pitchers. Let’s compare them with the active pitchers in terms of strikeouts and walks per nine innings. See if you notice something. For dramatic effect, I’ll include the Hall of Famers that retired between 1980 and 2000.

Currently Active8.92.511.4
HOF After 20007.92.510.4
Outside After 20006.92.79.6
HOF 1980-19996.52.89.3

Not to belabor the point, but this trend has two significant consequences. First, pitchers today throw more pitches. They only started counting pitches accurately in 1988. You often hear tales of a Nolan Ryan 200 pitch complete game here and there, but these might be the stuff of legend. By and large, pitchers of the past threw fewer pitches per at bat than the ones from today. It takes at least three pitches for a strikeout and four for a walk. So, as these numbers rise so do the number of pitches.

The second significant point is that pitchers are exerting more control over the outcomes of the game. If we agree that pitchers can control strikeouts, walks, and home runs and exert less control over balls in play, then a rising number of strikeouts means they are more valuable on a per inning basis. In other words, they may carry the same value as a pitcher from the past even though they throw fewer innings. Now, whether these trends are good for the game or not is open to debate. That’s not our purpose here. You came to read about recently retired pitchers out of the Hall of Fame. Let’s move on to that.

Career Value

David Wells53.558.342.0153.8
Kevin Apper54.550.837.8143.1
Jamie Moyer49.848.045.0142.8
Bartolo Colon46.150.941.0138.0
Roy Oswalt50.152.734.4137.2
Kenny Rogers50.442.541.2134.1
Javier Vazquez45.753.633.8133.1
Johan Santana51.745.634.2131.5

Colon has not officially retired yet. He stated he wanted to pitch another season, but it doesn’t look like anything is biting at this point, but teams often get desperate when their arms begin breaking down. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The rest are pitchers we all recognize and ones that may hit a soft spot for us. Personally, I have fond memories of Roy Oswalt, but others may remember a pitcher from their favorite team.

This is the point where we start to hear questions like, “what about Pitcher A or Pitcher B?” It’s one of the funny things about analyzing data. The closer you get to the mean the more data points you see. In other words, as pitchers move further and further away from those that are legitimate Hall of Famers, the more pitchers get included. Suffice it to say, these pitchers fared better in the index than some others from the same era even if they might appear to have similar conventional numbers.

These pitchers are much in the same category as some of the position players voted in by the Veterans Committee. We will see pitchers in the Hall of Fame with similar resumes. No one can knock any of these guys. They are among the best from their era, but we all know they are a cut below where the legitimate Hall of Famers stand.

Peak Value

Johan Santana51.445.633.4130.4261.9
Roy Oswalt48.948.332.8130.0257.2
Javier Vazquez44.747.429.0121.1254.2
Kevin Appier47.542.829.6119.9263.0
David Wells31.938.426.496.7250.5
Bartolo Colon32.632.326.291.1229.1
Jamie Moyer33.929.826.490.1232.9
Kenny Rogers34.

In his landmark book, “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame,” Bill James introduced a number of interesting metrics to compare players. One of those was similarity scores. The general idea is that if the players you were most similar to were Hall of Famers then you probably should be a Hall of Famer. If they weren’t then you shouldn’t be. There are always exceptions to these things, but it holds here with the index. The goal was not to say that Kevin Appier was a better pitcher than Johan Santana. After all, a separation of one win when combining career and peak value over three platforms is negligible. The point is that they have similar value.

So, if you are putting any of these guys in then you have to have a pretty good reason to do so. You have to tell me why Santana or Appier (or Oswalt) deserves to be in while the others here don’t. In other words, you have to acknowledge the fact that they all have similar value. If you can manage to make such an argument even after acknowledging that then more power to you.

Pitching Statistics

Kevin Appier189.5521216.93.20.8
Johan Santana139.6411368.82.51.0
Roy Oswalt163.6151277.42.10.8
Javier Vazquez165.5081058.02.41.2
David Wells239.6041085.81.91.1
Jamie Moyer268.5631035.42.61.2
Bartolo Colon247.5681066.62.51.1
Kenny Rogers219.5841075.43.20.9

You can see the breakdown perfectly. The guys with over 200 wins are on the bottom of the list while the guys on top had fewer than 200 (or even fewer than 150). However, take a look at their ERA+. Vazquez sticks out, but then again his fielding independent pitching (FIP) was considerably lower than his ERA. This brings us back to the question: what is a starting pitcher’s primary job? Well, his job is the same as any pitcher’s job. It is to limit the number of runs the other team scores. Usually, wins accompany that, but as we discussed early on, sometimes bad bullpens, poor run support, or poor fielding support gets in the way.

The upshot is that Moyer, Colon, and Rogers were above average overall. There is nothing wrong with being average or above average. There is considerable value in being average and if you can do it for a long time, like those guys did, you might even look like a Hall of Famer if the light shines on you in a certain way. The Hall of Fame wasn’t made for above average players. It would take up the entire town of Cooperstown if that were the case.

Playoff Performance

David Wells10-5125.
Roy Oswalt5-272.13.737.03.01.1
Bartolo Colon3-567.03.497.03.50.8
Kenny Rogers3-343.
Jamie Moyer3-341.
Johan Santana1-334.03.978.52.60.5
Kevin Appier0-232.05.346.55.11.7
Javier Vazquez1-115.210.3410.35.73.4

If you peruse the other pitcher articles in addition to this one you will notice that these guys got fewer opportunities in the playoffs than their contemporaries. This is an important point. They didn’t pitch on teams quite as good so their overall records were not quite as good. This is punishing them for geography. Wells is an obvious exception and he seemed to make the most of his opportunities. Is it enough to overcome his lackluster index? Well, go back in the data banks of your brain and come up with a signature Wells playoff moment. We’re still waiting.

Oswalt comes closest to doing that on this list as he did pitch the key Game 6 of the NLCS to get the Astros into the World Series. All of us Astros fans wish that they World Series had been more competitive, but it was fun just to get there. On the other end of the spectrum we have Vazquez. I think we can safely say his playoff resume needs to go in the circular file.

Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Johan Santana13238
Roy Oswalt15028
Bartolo Colon21121
Jamie Moyer12013
David Wells02010
Kevin Appier0105
Kenny Rogers0105
Javier Vazquez0105

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Johan Santana11338
Roy Oswalt14133
Kevin Appier42132
Bartolo Colon52025
Kenny Rogers14023
Javier Vazquez32019
Jamie Moyer22016
David Wells40012

The Cy Young points illustrate the narrative we have been developing above. Santana was brilliant over a five year stretch and Oswalt was really good for ten seasons. Then, it all fell off the table. This is why I don’t profile players until they have played at least ten seasons. Players sometimes have immediate and drastic declines. However, the bias that used to be in BBWAA is on full display with Appier. The Royals and Athletics were never really good and were often pretty bad. That’s not Appier’s fault. 

On the bottom of the list we have Wells. In the BWAR table he manages only four top ten finishes and never finishes in the top five. We could ask the same question we would ask of position players and the MVP voting. How could someone be a Hall of Famer if they were never one of the top five pitchers in the league. Consistently solid is nice, but it won’t cut the mustard here.

Hall of Fame Index: Starters on the outside looking in

Dividing up the next groups of pitchers is a challenge. None of them are in the Hall of Fame, but some still have a realistic shot of getting there. Once you drop off the Hall of Fame ballot for the BBWAA you have to rely on the Veterans Committee. As we have seen, their selections sometimes make a lot of sense (Alan Trammel) and sometimes don’t make any sense whatsoever (Harold Baines). So, predicting the outcome based on those findings is a lot like throwing darts blindfolded.

I thought of numerous ways to divide 15 pitchers into two groups. I thought about going with who is eligible and who isn’t. I thought about going with some level of perception based on wins or similar metric. In this case though, we will be using the index to create our groups. As will become readily apparent when both articles are taken in concert, we will have seven pitchers in our first group and eight pitchers in the second group. Just for fun, in the column next to the career index tab we will include the highest percentage they received from the BBWAA. Asterisks will indicate the player is still eligible for enshrinement. I “NE” will indicate that the player is not yet eligible.

Career Value

Curt Schilling79.579.850.4209.760.9*
Kevin Brown67.876.548.4192.72.1
Andy Pettitte60.268.044.8173.09.9*
David Cone62.356.041.0159.33.9
Chuck Finley57.956.942.6157.40.2
Mark Buehrle59.252.544.0155.7NE
Tim Hudson58.148.743.8150.6NE

If you have some time to kill, go in to baseball-reference’s awards voting page and check out the Hall of Fame ballots at any point in time. The names you see on the bottom will startle you. Some of them are guys like the one’s above where you wonder how they didn’t get more support. Others are players no one in their right mind would consider for the Hall of Fame. How in the hell did they get on the ballot in the first place?

Of course, that is a rhetorical question. There is a committee that chooses who gets to be on the ballot. The question comes down to the fact that you have a limit of ten players to vote for. Seeing a ballot of 30 or 40 guys is daunting. I mean no disrespect to the Aaron Sele’s of the world, but let’s be realistic.

We show these percentages to show the huge discrepancy between performance and perceived performance. Is Schilling that much better than Brown? I suppose we will find out, but odds are really good Schilling will get in. The odds on Brown or Pettitte are not that good. As was said with the curious case of Lance Berkman, it isn’t so much that I would argue that either of those guys are Hall of Famers necessarily. The point is in figuring out why there is such a huge gap in the voting.

Peak Value

Curt Schilling60.560.536.2157.2366.9
Kevin Brown54.058.635.6148.2340.9
David Cone50.744.732.0127.4286.4
Chuck Finley46.740.531.2118.4275.8
Mark Buehrle43.639.331.4114.3270.0
Tim Hudson43.338.731.6113.6264.2
Andy Pettitte39.544.628.0112.1285.1

Peak value was its own category for a very important reason. Often when we think of guys long after they are retired, we think of them when they were at their best. Sometimes there’s a singular moment that comes to mind, but often it is just a signature season or a group of seasons. Pettitte has moments, but he doesn’t have that cache of putting up monster seasons at any point in his career.

As we will see, all of these pitchers have points in their favor and points that detract from their particular cases. This is the main reason why I don’t set any firm cutoff points for someone to get the nod. The gaps we see between Schilling, Brown, and the rest probably do that for us. Yet, if someone wants to order a beer at the bar and argue the case for Pettitte, Cone, or anyone else is free to do so.

When we look at conventional numbers, we have to take each one with a grain of salt. They can help explain the index numbers, but they can also subtract from their overall point. ERA+ is a particularly good statistic, but the rest serve as background evidence or an explanation for what we see in the index and not anything that provides further evidence on its own.

Pitching Statistics

Curt Schilling216.5971278.62.01.0
Kevin Brown211.5941276.62.50.6
David Cone194.6061218.33.50.8
Andy Pettitte256.6261176.62.80.8
Chuck Finley200.5361157.33.70.9
Mark Buehrle214.5721175.12.01.0
Tim Hudson222.6251206.02.60.7

It’s readily apparent that the BBWAA loves round numbers. In the case of pitchers it is wins. If you get to 300 you are automatically in. If you get to 250 you are most likely in. If you can’t find your way to 200 then you might as well stay home. Is David Cone a demonstrably worse pitcher than Chuck Finley? Most people would say he was better. Yet, that didn’t make a lick of difference at the ballot box.

Is Schilling that much superior to Brown? They have a similar number of victories, a similar winning percentage, and the exact same ERA+. I don’t need the index to tell me they were similar pitchers. Their values at least are similar. With the exception of victories, Pettitte is similar to the rest of the pitchers on the list. He had the fortune of pitching for the Yankees and Astros when they were good. Of course, that feeds into our next test.

Playoff Performance

Andy Pettitte19-112763.816.02.51.0
Curt Schilling11-21332.
David Cone8-31113.807.64.71.0
Kevin Brown5-5814.
Tim Hudson1-4753.696.32.60.7
Mark Buehrle2-1304.
Chuck Finley1-2224.507.84.51.6

Police experts often talk about how unreliable eyewitness testimony. Our minds often play tricks on us. Kevin Brown was the guy that dominated in the 1997 and 1998 playoff runs for the Marlins and Padres. It got him his 100 million dollar contract with the Dodgers. Overall, he wasn’t a brilliant playoff performer. Go figure. Then, you get the difference between won-loss records and other performance. Pettitte is the all-time leader in the playoff victories. That likely is the main reason why he is still on the ballot. However, the other numbers seem to indicate that he wasn’t that special.

On the other hand, Schilling was special. We all remember the bloody sock in Boston, but he was money when the Diamondbacks won their World Series title as well. How much credit you get for playoff performance is up for grabs. You can see the difference between Schilling and Brown’s numbers. Is that enough to explain why Schilling will likely get in and Brown was one and done? Did one bad game affect Brown’s numbers? He was a disaster in the 2004 NLCS and also struggled in the World Series in 1997. That’s four games.

Surprisingly, Cone did not get more support on the ballot after his playoff performance. He played key roles on those late 1990s Yankees teams that dominated in the playoffs. This is the problem when one fails to get to 200 victories. Suffice it to say, no one really tanked in the playoffs. That won’t always be the case.

Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
David Cone13128
Andy Pettitte14023
Curt Schilling04020
Kevin Brown32019
Tim Hudson13018
Mark Buehrle0105
Chuck Finley1003

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Curt Schilling38049
Kevin Brown13238
David Cone15138
Tim Hudson52025
Mark Buehrle42022
Chuck Finley23021
Andy Pettitte12013

The Cy Young tests and the MVP tests are dreadfully important because it demonstrates what the BBWAA thought of the player while he was playing. With the exception of Pettitte, all six players were undervalued during their career. As we move further back in time, we notice that the BBWAA zeroes in on wins with more regularity. The guy that wins the most games is not always the best pitcher. It means he probably pitched on the best team.

The tests also serve as a quick comparison tool to pair with the index. The top three are separated in the index and BWAR points. The lone hold-out is Pettitte. This combination of playoff performance and Cy Young performance make his case fascinating. Which do you pay more attention to? Is his lack of single season dominance more of a detractor than his 19 playoff victories?

At any rate, we can see when comparing these pitchers to the list before that Curt Schilling and Kevin Brown are clear fits for the Hall of Fame. Brown is already off the list and Schilling looks to clear the threshold within the next two seasons. As mentioned before, the tiers test makes Brown a clear candidate for the Veterans Committee vote.

Hall of Fame Index: Recently Retired Hall of Fame Pitchers

Statistics are great, but all good statisticians know that no statistic is worth anything without a frame of reference. They do it with our health numbers. We see charts that tell us if we are a certain height we should weigh within a certain range. I’m now monitoring my blood sugars and the same kind of deal applies. When dealing with the Hall of Fame we should start with guys that are in the Hall of Fame and that no one disputes their place there.

We are looking at the recently retired (since 2000) who have already been admitted into the Hall of Fame. There is one notable exception, but his case is unique. Suffice it to say, these guys have the numbers and cache to be in. The question comes down to which numbers are most important when comparing those that are in with those that want to be in. As per usual, we begin with the index and step out from there.

Career Value

Roger Clemens139.2133.787.4360.3
Greg Maddux106.6116.779.6302.9
Randy Johnson101.1110.465.2276.7
Pedro Martinez83.984.451.2219.5
Mike Mussina82.881.254.0218.0
Tom Glavine80.766.762.8210.2
John Smoltz69.079.557.8206.3
Roy Halladay64.365.444.4174.1

It’s certainly ironic that the most qualified pitcher since World War II is not in the Hall of Fame. Is he the best pitcher since World War II? That’s a much more difficult question to answer and the fact that he sits on top amongst his contemporaries shouldn’t be construed as an endorsement of that opinion. As we will see, Maddux and Johnson were actually superior peak performers. So, are you looking for longevity or are you looking for concentrated greatness?

The index measures fitness pure and simple. Without the benefit of peak value numbers we see how similar these guys are. The only one that sticks out is Halladay, but we will see what happens when we look at the peak value numbers. The Clemens question is one of the two major questions affecting the Hall of Fame. In terms of pure numbers he has to be in. In terms of evaluating his performance prior to the suspicion of doing drugs he has to be in. Where it gets murky is when we start factoring in the moral/ethical element. He never admitted to using, never tested positive, but was mentioned in the Mitchell Report and other circles. Sure, his resurgence in 1997 is rather fishy when looking back, but stranger things have happened.

Suffice it to say, when we look at some of the conventional numbers, we will see why certain players rank where they do. Old-timers focus so much on wins and winning percentage that they often ignore the factors that play into that. We have four 300+ game winners in this group. Conventional wisdom says they ought to rank near the top. As we will see, there are other more important numbers in play here.

Peak Value

Greg Maddux71.372.548.6192.4495.3
Randy Johnson70.975.443.6189.9466.8
Pedro Martinez71.671.641.0184.2403.7
Roger Clemens70.069.541.8181.3541.6
Roy Halladay61.460.139.0160.4334.5
Mike Mussina52.554.434.6141.5359.5
Tom Glavine55.443.838.9138.1348.3
John Smoltz44.349.141.2134.6342.9

At some point we must acknowledge our limitations. We had to make hard decisions with the index as it pertained to peak value. How many seasons should we use? Should we use consecutive seasons or simply the top seasons regardless of where they came in the career. At different times the answers to those questions were different. So, if you took the best ten seasons regardless of where they fell, Clemens would likely take the top spot in peak value. We could get into the reasons why we did what we did, but if we reversed it different questions would emerge.

I say all this to demonstrate the point that the numbers above shouldn’t be taken as gospel. We are not rank ordering players here and we really don’t need to. These players are setting the standard for what others need to do to get into the Hall of Fame. Whether someone winds up with 334 wins or 348 wins is immaterial. We are searching for significant gaps in data because significant gaps cannot be explained merely through questions about methodology. Significant gaps occur when something is lacking in the second group.

You certainly can and should carry on a debate on your own time about which of these pitchers you would prefer. These debates are always fun as you inevitably get the unique questions. Who would you want for a single game? Who would you want for a single season? Who would you want over the course of a decade? I love those questions, but those questions don’t serve us here. We’ve seen the index, so now the next step is to look at the more conventional numbers to see if it stacks up.

Pitching Numbers

Roger Clemens354.6581438.62.90.7
Greg Maddux355.6101326.11.80.6
Randy Johnson303.64613510.63.30.9
Pedro Martinez219.68715410.02.40.8
Mike Mussina270.6381237.12.00.9
Tom Glavine305.6001185.33.10.7
John Smoltz213.5791258.02.60.7
Roy Halladay203.6591316.91.90.8

You could certainly argue that Glavine doesn’t belong with this group. His strikeout rate is far lower than any other pitcher on this list and is the only one we have seen so far with a strikeout rate worse than the league average. His walk rate wasn’t the highest, but it was a little further north than what you would expect out of a control pitcher. The secret begins to reveal itself with the lower home run rate, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Most of the story comes in his ability to induce weak contact. We don’t see those numbers here and the numbers of the past don’t include as much as the modern ones do. Suffice it to say, he is more than you see here, but how much more? On the other end of the spectrum we have Pedro Martinez. His career did not last as long, but he did everything better than everyone else during the time he had. He is the only one to manage to break the four to one strikeout to walk ratio barrier. For all of our pitching to contact lovers, these numbers are a sobering reminder that missing bats is still the best way to guarantee success.

The difference between Martinez and the pitchers above him is the reason why we don’t simply look at even enlightened numbers like ERA+ on their own. There is no context or frame of reference. Was that done over the course of 12 seasons? 16? 20? The index still gives us a more complete picture because the element of time is involved. While playoff performance often amounts to a season’s worth of data or less, those numbers can serve to define a pitcher’s reputation as a clutch performer or a choke artist.

Playoff Performance

Tom Glavine14-162183.305.93.60.9
John Smoltz15-42092.678.62.90.7
Roger Clemens12-81993.757.83.20.8
Greg Maddux11-141983.
Mike Mussina7-81393.429.32.11.2
Randy Johnson7-91213.509.82.41.1
Pedro Martinez6-4963.469.02.80.9
Roy Halladay3-2382.378.31.20.7

Pitching and hitting are mirror images of each other. People often forget that when they make generalized platitudes about how pitching wins championships. They both do. The conventional wisdom is that hitters will be reduced to rubble in the playoffs because they don’t face that level of competition during the regular season. That sounds nice and there is a kernel of truth to that, but wouldn’t the reverse also be true? Pitchers don’t face lineups as good as the ones they will face in the playoffs. So, it really isn’t about whether pitching or hitting wins championships. They both do. It really is about asking ourselves which players elevated their games when it mattered most.

Clearly, John Smoltz and Roy Halladay did. That has to be included in the context of how both got into the Hall of Fame despite borderline resumes on paper. The beat writers aren’t busting the servers on this site to see what the index says. At least not yet. They are looking at conventional numbers and they are considering playoff performance. They are also considering how each fared in the Cy Young Award voting.

Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Roger Clemens23791
Randy Johnson14573
Greg Maddux05465
Pedro Martinez04350
Roy Halladay05245
Tom Glavine04240
Mike Mussina26036
John Smoltz22126

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Roger Clemens267106
Randy Johnson14683
Greg Maddux18373
Roy Halladay04460
Pedro Martinez15358
Mike Mussina46152
Tom Glavine14133
John Smoltz53030

So imagine this: according to baseball-reference WAR, Clemens was one of the top ten pitchers in the league 15 times. Most pitchers would kill to just last 15 years in the big leagues much less be one of the best pitchers in the league. With all of them we see slight differences with Halladay probably having the most dramatic increase. If he had won four Cy Young Awards instead of the two I’m sure his reputation would be slightly different.

On the other end of the spectrum, Smoltz comes out a little underwhelming. We do have to remember that he spent several seasons as the Braves’ closer. He was arguably the best closer in the National League during those seasons, but closers rarely get Cy Young awards votes. Give him even two additional top ten finishes and he leapfrogs Glavine and Mussina respectively in those two tables.

However, this grouping serves as a baseline for future groupings from this same era. We will look at two groups. The first group are guys that many believe should be in the Hall of Fame. They will be right in some instances and not in others. The second group will be guys that likely will come up short. Maybe the pundits will be wrong. You never know.

Hall of Fame Index: Active Starting Pitchers

If it seems like I’ve been avoiding pitchers it’s because I have been. We have fairly uniform ways of evaluating position players. The three platforms we use in the index don’t always agree, but we see fewer wild variations in the numbers. With pitchers they definitely don’t agree. The source of the disagreement comes down to how much a pitcher can control. Close to 20 years ago, Voros McCracken developed his Defense Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS) theory which showed that by and large pitchers could not control what happened to balls in play.

While there have been chinks in that armor, the theory generally holds. The batting average on balls in play (BABIP) fluctuated wildly for most pitchers without a reasonably explanation at the time. So, we focused on strikeout rates, walk rates, and home run rates. Those were the things a pitcher could control. Win shares is still largely based on those theories. WAR considers more. It isn’t so much that McCracken was mistaken. His theory is still largely correct, but we know more about the nature of contact than we knew then. Some pitchers are able to consistently induce groundballs and others weak contact. That has a way of either limiting BABIP or the amount of damage a pitcher surrenders.

Usually, we start with the index, but this time we will start with the numbers most people consider when they consider pitchers. There are some good ones in here (the DIPS numbers and ERA+) and there are some misleading ones (wins, winning percentage). Sometimes these numbers are part of an explanation of how good the pitcher was. Sometimes they get in the way.

Traditional Pitching Statistics

Clayton Kershaw154.6911609.82.30.6
Max Scherzer160.65313010.42.51.0
Justin Verlander208.6271278.92.60.9
David Price144.6521248.72.30.9
Cole Hamels159.5821248.52.51.0
Jon Lester178.6431238.32.90.9
Zack Greinke191.6161238.22.10.9
Felix Hernandez169.5651208.32.60.8
CC Sabathia247.6181177.72.70.9

When you listen to games and commentary on the networks, you often hear of the pundits talking about pitching to contact. The idea is that going for the strikeouts is wasteful and wears a pitcher down. There is certainly some truth to that as every vantage point has kernels of truth. However, when you look at the above numbers you see two commonalities. All of these pitchers were 17 percent better than the league or more according to ERA+. Secondly, all of them struck out more hitters per nine innings than the league average.

That can’t be a coincidence. So, McCracken was more or less right when he first introduced the DIPS theory. Pitchers can control how many bats they miss, how many walks they surrender, and how many balls they keep in the yard. It’s no wonder Kershaw is better than the rest. He is clearly better at limiting home runs and has a better strikeout to walk ratio than the guys on the list. Sure, he is also better at inducing weak contact.

Like with the position players, we are going through multiple tests to determine whether our currently active starters are a good fit for the Hall of Fame. We will start with the index and then move on to playoff pitching and then Cy Young points. Hopefully the combination gives us a clear picture of these pitchers.

Career Value

CC Sabathia63.166.448.0177.5
Justin Verlander64.866.543.8175.1
Zack Greinke66.555.541.4163.4
Clayton Kershaw62.662.137.6162.3
Felix Hernandez51.254.937.8143.9
Cole Hamels57.549.736.4143.6
Max Scherzer55.253.234.0142.4
Jon Lester44.843.533.8122.1
David Price38.740.128.0106.8

Since we haven’t done this in a while, I should remind people of two key points as it pertains to the index. First, it is not meant to rank order players. We are not saying that Sabathia is better than the other pitchers. That is impossible to determine even when we are dealing with inactive players. He is in his last season so he is obviously closer to the end than the others. Even with allowing for that, we have so many moving parts that it’s foolish to take these numbers beyond their intended purpose. That is, we want to measure Hall of Fame fitness.

That brings us to the second point. There is no specific number that determines fitness. We are looking for gaps in data. It is easy to say Jon Lester and David Price have not done what they need to do to be fit yet, but we need to look at the entire pitching landscape before we determine what that threshold actually is. We could guess based on other positions and where they ended up, but pitchers are definitely different based on theories of how much of the action they can control.

Peak Value

Clayton Kershaw60.460.336.2156.9319.2
Justin Verlander53.355.935.0144.2319.3
Zack Greinke59.646.333.2139.1302.5
Max Scherzer53.250.633.0136.8279.2
CC Sabathia47.449.833.8131.0308.5
Felix Hernandez47.050.433.4130.8274.7
Cole Hamels46.542.530.0119.0262.6
Jon Lester38.040.128.8106.9229.0
David Price37.439.127.4103.9210.7

Keep in mind that we are looking for gaps in data. We can see the obvious divide between Sabathia, Greinke, Verlander, and Kershaw and the rest. We can see a second divide between the rest and Jon Lester and David Price. Time will tell where the dividing line will end up being and having these pitchers still active adds a degree of difficulty. Of course, there is more to life than just the index. We need to consider what kind of pitchers they were in the biggest moments (playoffs).

Playoff performance is beyond the scope of the index, so it does matter. Obviously, a pitcher is limited by the opportunities he has, but if he makes the most of those opportunities, he can turn a borderline Hall of Fame grade over the threshold. Naturally, the reverse is also true. Occasionally, someone doesn’t get opportunities. That’s a neutral call because no single player can be blamed for not getting the opportunity to play in a big game.

Playoff Performance

Jon Lester9-71542.517.82.30.9
Justin Verlander13-71523.
Clayton Kershaw9-101524.329.82.61.3
CC Sabathia10-71294.318.44.41.0
Cole Hamels7-61003.418.32.41.1
David Price5-9994.628.22.51.4
Max Scherzer4-5823.7311.03.40.9
Zack Greinke3-4674.
Felix Hernandez

You’ll notice that many of these guys have elevated numbers. It’s instructive to look at the DIPS to figure out why they are elevated. For most of these guys they saw their home run rates elevate over their career averages. Better lineups have more power hitters and are generally more successful. We also see elevated strikeout numbers from some of the pitchers. These factors work to balance each other out.

Obviously, Lester is the only one significantly better than his career averages. He helped both Chicago and Boston win World Series titles. It won’t be enough to bump him up that much, but if he can get into the borderline category it could throw him over the top. Verlander stands in the top five in all-time in playoff victories and with the Astros likely going back he could add one or two this season as well. If he gets two he will tie John Smoltz for second all-time. Hamels and Scherzer are fairly close to their career norms, but their won-loss records aren’t there.

The rest are significantly worse than their regular season numbers would suggest. This isn’t a disqualifying factor just like the positive isn’t qualifying for Lester. It is one facet of a Hall of Fame resume. What’s more, they still have a chance to change some of their resume. Often, one run through the playoffs can change everything.

Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Clayton Kershaw04350
Max Scherzer03345
Justin Verlander16143
Felix Hernandez23131
CC Sabathia04130
Zack Greinke22126
David Price12123
Jon Lester13018
Cole Hamels31014

BWAR Cy Young Points

 Top 10Top 5CYPoints
Clayton Kershaw14353
Justin Verlander13348
Max Scherzer14243
Zack Greinke41237
Felix Hernandez23131
Jon Lester24026
Cole Hamels52025
CC Sabathia33024
David Price32019

When we did the MVP points, we noticed a ton of variation between the two lists. We won’t see that much here for a couple of reasons. First, both the voting and the BWAR counts only include top ten finishes, so there is more uniformity there. Secondly, when looking at modern pitchers we have seen the BBWAA is more sophisticated in how it doles out the awards than it used to be. They aren’t honed in on wins as much, so the awards have been much more accurate than in years past.

We do see some jumps in rank though. Verlander goes from one award to three and Greinke also sees a significant jump in rank. On the negative end, Price tumbles down to the bottom. Just like with the MVP points, these rankings alone prove nothing. They have to be taken in concert with the other statistical profiles. However, when you see the index, playoff performance, conventional numbers, and the Cy Young test in concert you get a pretty good idea of who should be in and who should be out.

The whole key is add a layer of sophistication to the proceedings. Sabathia just notched his 3000thstrikeout. That in concert with 250+ wins (if he remains healthy) would be enough for the less sophisticated voter. Those are all fine and dandy, but we want to consider the whole picture. Naturally, starting out with the current pitchers puts us at a bit of disadvantage because we have nothing to compare them to. We will be splitting pitchers in post-World War II and pre-World War II to make things easier on ourselves. We have had 74 seasons since the end of World War II and 74 through 1945 if you count the beginning as 1871. We will have tiers done when we get through profiling individual eras. We have four pitchers with an index score north of 300 at the moment and that feels like the dividing line so far.

Hall of Fame Index: Right Field Tiers

We finally come to the end of the position player list. Just like all of the other positions, we can split right fielders into tiers. The initial thrust behind going through tiers was to solve what I lovingly call the “Harold Baines problem.” He did not make it into the top 50 players, but wasn’t that far off the list. So, we could call him a tier five guy.

The idea is that debating whether Baines (or anyone else) is a Hall of Famer is foolish on its face. One could list the number of hits, RBI, or runs scored and compare that with other players. Simply put, the question shouldn’t be about whether someone should or should not be in the Hall of Fame. It should be about how is the most qualified. Baines is nowhere near the best player that wasn’t in the Hall of Fame.

Tier One

Babe Ruth (B)502.1297.7799.8
Hank Aaron (B)407.9225.9633.8
Mel Ott (B)323.9218.1542.0
Frank Robinson (B)315.1187.8502.9
Al Kaline (B)270.3163.7438.0
Roberto Clemente (B)250.5181.7432.2
Reggie Jackson (B)235.5170.9406.4
Paul Waner (B)231.5170.9402.4
Sam Crawford (V)235.6157.6393.2
Harry Heilmann (B)212.4170.2382.6
Gary Sheffield208.6149.9358.5
Tony Gwynn (B)213.8142.1355.9

This works out well. Sheffield is the only tier one player not in the Hall of Fame and the writers have the ability to rectify that. Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Sheffield has been implicated in the steroids scandal and he has what many would call a prickly personality. Those two factors have torpedoed his efforts to get elected to this point. He might end up being one of those guys that has to wait for the Veteran’s Committee.

Ruth has the highest index score in history. Technically speaking, this means he is more fit for the Hall of Fame than any other player. It should not be interpreted to mean that he is the greatest player of all-time. Naturally, many will interpret it that way and it would be a fairly popular opinion.

With eight players above 400, you could claim that right field is the best position on the diamond in terms of depth. The 350 cutoff on tier one is the highest of all the positions, so that claim has validity. As we know, tier two guys can still claim to be qualified Hall of Famers, but it is more difficult to make that argument for those on the outside looking in.

Tier Two

Larry Walker203.0141.2344.2
Bobby Abreu190.8153.4344.2
Ichiro Suzuki181.7160.0341.7
Sammy Sosa182.9156.6339.5
Reggie Smith194.2144.9339.1
Dave Winfield (B)207.1129.5336.6
Vladimir Guerrero (B)178.5155.1333.6
Elmer Flick (V)167.4163.7331.1
Dwight Evans201.6129.2330.8
Bobby Bonds175.5153.4328.9
Willie Keeler (V)176.5141.2317.7
Brian Giles163.4144.7308.1
Enos Slaughter (V)171.3128.9300.2

There are a number of modern right fielders here and some of them will eventually get in the Hall of Fame. The question is whether they are the most qualified players outside of the Hall of Fame. Walker and Abreu have very strong cases and Suzuki is all but a lock to get in as soon as he is eligible for enshrinement. From there, the situation gets a little dicey. Evans certainly has a compelling case when you compare him with his teammate Jim Rice.

Those in the Hall of Fame have some mitigating circumstances that make their tier two status unique. Keeler played in the 19thcentury when there were fewer games per season. Slaughter lost a few seasons serving his country in World War II. As we know, Winfield played forever and eclipsed 3000 hits.

Guerrero and Flick are interesting choices. They aren’t bad choices but they are interesting ones. Abreu is a contemporary of Guerrero and arguably more valuable. He may fall off the ballot the first season. It’s always interesting to see who they end supporting and who they overlook.

Tier Three

Rusty Staub165.3121.9287.2
Kiki Cuyler (V)158.0128.0286.0
Harry Hooper (V)170.0114.0284.0
Rocky Colavito148.6135.3283.9
Sam Rice (V)168.4114.9283.3
Jack Clark166.9114.4281.3
Ken Singleton146.6130.5277.1
Chuck Klein (V)134.0128.6262.6
Tony Oliva132.8128.4261.2
King Kelly (V)146.7114.3261.0
Mike Tiernan135.5123.8259.3
Dixie Walker139.9117.0256.9
Dave Parker146.6109.8256.4
Sam Thompson (V)135.7120.4256.1

The four tier system doesn’t always work out cleanly. There are really five tiers in this group as Klein is separated considerably from Singleton. That being said, about half of these guys were Veterans Committee selections and some were more controversial than others. Klein and Cuyler are perfect examples of guys that were a product of their time. They hit and hit and hit, but so did a lot of the league at that time.

Meanwhile, guys like Staub, Oliva, and Parker are knocking on the door. There are a number of people that would swear by those guys and with the election of Baines you could foresee an “if…then” kind of situation. Staub in particular is almost in tier two. Heck, give him another all-star level season somewhere and he would have been. This is the nature of tier three guys. If you close one eye you can possibly justify putting one or more of these guys in. Undoubtedly, they are more qualified that some of the guys that are in. So, the big question is whether they are the most qualified guys on the outside looking in.

Tier Four

Herman, Babe129.4121.5250.9
Chapman, Ben129.7118.5248.2
Drew, J.D.132.2114.8247.0
Canseco, Jose138.9106.8245.7
Nicholson, Bill127.0118.2245.2
Alou, Felipe128.5110.4238.9
Callison, Johnny121.3117.0238.3
Justice, David127.6110.1237.7
Salmon, Tim122.4112.5234.9
Ordonez, Magglio124.5109.6234.1
O’Neill, Paul131.6100.3231.9

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen zero Hall of Famers in tier four. At first glance it would appear to be encouraging. This isn’t to demean any of these guys. There have been hundreds of right fielders in the game’s history, so being in the top 50 is quite an honor. However, we say this in the backdrop of knowing there are guys outside of the top 50 that somehow made it into the Hall of Fame.

In addition to Baines, Ross Youngs also got elected by the Veteran’s Committee without the benefit of being a top 50 guy. Baines officially is the least qualified right fielder if you eliminate players who also managed. What made his selection so disappointing is the fact that these statistics are readily available for everyone now. If he had been elected in 1960 or 1970 we could forgive the focus on hits and RBI.

Some of these tier four guys were beloved because they put up some outrageously good numbers for a short time (Herman) or were a part of a great dynasty (O’Neill). The rest were some combination of the above. Depending on the era when you grew up, you probably have a soft spot for one or more of these guys. This is why we try to take passion out of it with these tiers.

Hall of Fame Index: Center Field Tiers

Center field is one of the more interesting positions on the diamond. It is clearly one of the two marquee spots among all the position players and the names on top of the list are some of the titans of the game. However, the depth of the position on top might not be what some of the other spots are. Still, there are plenty of names in tier one that should get the nod within the next few seasons.

As we continue through the tiers, we notice that every position has a mind of its own. This is why tiers are not necessarily evenly distributed but are dependent on the breakdown of the numbers. Simply put, we are looking for gaps. So, the end result is that we are trying to categorize players with other players of similar value. The idea is not to rank order players, but to frame the conversation.

Tier One

Willie Mays (B)443.8265.5709.3
Ty Cobb (B)444.8257.3702.1
Tris Speaker (B)390.7226.7617.4
Mickey Mantle (B)335.6243.5579.4
Joe DiMaggio (B)238.6199.5438.1
Ken Griffey Jr. (B)239.9187.2427.1
Billy Hamilton (V)201.0170.3371.3
Duke Snider (B)200.2170.7370.9
Carlos Beltran211.6146.8358.4
Andruw Jones 184.9162.5347.4
Richie Ashburn (V)187.1152.6339.7
Jim Edmonds185.1151.2336.3

Unlike many positions, the three players outside are either on the ballot or will be within a few seasons, so the Veterans Committee doesn’t need to make any corrections for past injustices. At least, that is if we want to stick with tier one applicants. However, we might suspect that Jones will be passed over because of perceptions about his career. Like many guys at other spots, more was expected. In fact, you could say that about a few guys on this list.

The problem with a large contingent of the BBWAA is that they still hold to old, arcane conceptions of value. In other words, they go with the “I know a Hall of Famer when I see one” approach. That will likely impact Edmonds as well. This is the two-fold problem with conventional numbers. The crowd that says they know Hall of Famers use conventional numbers to prove their preconceived notions. Both players brought considerable defensive value to the table.

That leaves us with Beltran. His own agent made dossiers that compared him favorably to Willie Mays. Those dossiers were patently ridiculous and much of his later career was marred with injuries. Still, the overall value was there and perhaps winning a World Series in his final season was the icing on the cake.

Tier Two

Andre Dawson (B)192.3137.2329.5
Kenny Lofton189.1139.2328.3
Max Carey (V)184.3131.8316.1
Jimmy Wynn169.7145.7315.4
Larry Doby (V)154.3151.8306.1
Vada Pinson165.3138.4303.7
Willie Davis178.8123.5302.3
Earl Averill (V)151.9149.5301.4
Cesar Cedeno161.8138.5300.3
Bernie Williams155.9142.0297.9
Chet Lemon160.6131.8292.4
Dale Murphy149.6139.7289.3
Andrew McCutchen144.4144.4288.8
Kirby Puckett (B)152.2133.3285.5
Hugh Duffy (V)150.4131.7282.1

There are any number of philosophies as it pertains to the Hall of Fame. Some people want the most exclusive club while others want to be more inclusive. It depends on whether you want to think of it as a museum or an exclusive club that only so many players can get in. Personally, I try to split the difference, but this point becomes dreadfully important when we get to tier two at any position.

I’m hard pressed to call any of these selections mistakes. They are only mistakes if you view the Hall of Fame as an exclusive club. The problem is when you get to the top of the list with guys like Kenny Lofton. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the question of whether Kenny Lofton or a Bernie Williams is a Hall of Famer is complicated one. The question of whether they are the most qualified player outside the Hall of Fame is a relatively easy one. A vote for either in the BBWAA process is not a bad vote, but when we are limited to ten selections, it may not be the most effective use of the slot.

It becomes more problematic with guys like Cesar Cedeno or Jimmy Wynn (local heroes). The Veterans Committee could certainly justify a selection of either, but who would be bypassing with such a selection? It’s one of the many reasons why it is important to have some kind of a system to sort through it all. After all, one man’s Wynn is another man’s Pinson. The tiered system simply indicates they have similar value. I have no problem with anyone arguing for one or the other, but they should go into with eyes wide open.

Tier Three

Fred Lynn155.4124.5279.9
Edd Roush (V)157.7121.5279.2
Johnny Damon162.0116.7278.7
Brett Butler150.9126.7277.6
Roy Thomas136.4133.7270.1
George Van Haltren154.9113.1268.0
Fielder Jones146.3120.6266.9
Amos Otis140.2125.6265.8
Curtis Granderson144.6121.0265.6
Wally Berger133.0132.4265.4
Mike Cameron145.9117.0262.9

I know that many of you are wondering about the name missing. There is a reason why we wait ten years before we start profiling current players. Exhibit A might be Wally Berger. He had more than 30 wins through his age 30 season and had put up some gaudy numbers in the process. He would accumulate only six wins following that season. There is just no telling how the aging process will impact any player, so while Mike Trout might end up being a tier one center fielder, we will wait for him to get to the ten year mark.

Overall, we break guys into tiers because we suddenly see things more clearly. All of these players have positive qualities and some might be enticing as candidates. Damon and Granderson are more current and certainly look like Hall of Famers when we look at the conventional numbers. However, value is determined by what you contribute offensively and defensively.

Again, it would be easy to bag on the selection of Edd Roush, but we have other Hall of Famers that aren’t even on the list. The most prominent of those would be Lloyd Waner. Waner will not appear anywhere on this list. However, those from the past did not have access to the data we have now. That is why selections from today in the borderline category are that much more infuriating.

Tier Four

Al Oliver149.1109.7258.8
Torii Hunter148.2106.3254.5
Earle Combs (V)129.2124.9254.1
Jimmy Ryan152.4100.3252.7
Andy Van Slyke129.3122.9252.2
Mike Griffin135.1116.2251.3
Hack Wilson (V)125.8123.1248.9
Pete Browning130.9117.0247.9
Steve Finley144.1101.0245.1
Paul Hines138.9104.3243.2
Clyde Milan131.0110.2241.2
Willie Wilson131.3108.0239.3

One of the more fascinating phenomenon in Hall of Fame circles is how many people trumpet the candidacies of good players on great teams. There is the Gil Hodges with the Boys of Summer and Dave Concepcion on the Big Red Machine. Usually, the argument goes that those teams would have been who they were without those players. In the literal sense that is true, but the question comes whether they were who they were because of the team they played on.

This brings us to Earle Combs. He was on the Murderer’s Row Yankees and perhaps had his best season in 1927 when the Yankees were perhaps the best team ever assembled. Sure, without him they likely wouldn’t have been that good, but they still would have been a great team. Players on great teams have built in advantages in the numbers and that is particularly true with win shares. So, giving them extra credit for their geography is like giving them an extra leg up.

Hack Wilson is an easier situation to read. He had 191 RBI in 1930 to set the modern record. It’s hard to imagine that record being broken. Opening the door for him is like giving Roger Maris the honor as well. Great seasons do not a career make. Still, it is understandable even if it is indefensible.