Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Obligatory Thoughts on the Baseball Hall of Fame part 1

After election season for politics, there's a void in my life, it can only be filled with people making crazy/irrational arguments.  I like baseball awards season because so many people have opinions about who should win what award.  My void is partially filled. My favorite part of the year (every year) is the baseball Hall of Fame time of year.  I get to see crazy irrational arguments for which player should make it over which player.  I love it. But, anyways.  A few years ago, I started my own ranking system for baseball players influenced primarily by WAR (Wins above Replacement (player)) both the Fangraphs version and Baseball Reference.  While there are inherent flaws in WAR it allows me to see the total value of a baseball player in a single statistic.  I created position sheets that used Bill James's list of top 100 players and added players who are active after his publication.  I used career WAR, best 5 consecutive years WAR, average WAR, highest three seasons WAR, highest 10 seasons WAR, and gave added points for each season above 5 WAR.  I lowered the numbers for career, 5 consecutive, 3 season, and 10 season so that the numbers wouldn't dwarf the seasonal averages.  The highest weight is given to career WAR but the other factors help water it down a bit.  Usually, a Hall of Famer would get around 39 in my system, as that it is the total for 10, 5 WAR seasons in my system.  5 WAR generally means that the player had an all-star caliber year and 8 WAR generally means they had a MVP caliber season. I used this ranking system to help me draft in a historical fantasy sim league. I'm a giant dork. I understand.  Catcher scores are multiplied by 1.2 because WAR doesn't fully capture catcher defense and WAR is lower for catchers than other positions because of games played.  I'm not saying my system is perfect but it gives a fairly accurate representation of how the player performed.  Babe Ruth has the highest score in my system with a score of 130.44 as a hitter and 17.34 as a pitcher, his total score is 137.78.  The rules for voting in the Hall of Fame is that you have 10 spots on the ballot.  This is a much stronger than usual ballot.  I'll give a short case for/against each candidate or just some thoughts on the candidate.  If a player does not get more than 5% of the vote than they fall off the ballot, so I'll run through the players I think should fall off the ballot first.

Sandy Alomar: N/A (unranked)
I didn't rank Alomar for whatever reason.  Honestly, there's not an easy case for people who are this far down on the ballot.
Pro: Former Rookie of the Year.  Played catcher for the Cleveland Indians when they were really good. 6 time All-Star (although, that doesn't mean that much).  Was called a beast multiple times by my brother and friends in MVP Baseball 2003.
Con: One above-average season according to Baseball Reference WAR.  Only four seasons at the starter level according to WAR.  Didn't have any large counting stats.  Only two seasons with above-average OPS+.  I could go on for awhile.

Jeff Conine: N/A (didn't rank)
Pro: Mr. Marlin. I have an irrational love for Conine.  He was on the two World Champions Florida Marlins.  Had a few seasons above-average stats.  Played for the Marlins and the Royals so he should get some love for playing for terrible franchises.
Con: Doesn't have large counting stats.  0 All-Star seasons according to WAR.  Basically an average player according to WAR and OPS+.

Mike Stanton-N/A
For whatever reason, I just remember Stanton pitching for the Braves and Yankees in the 1990s which means, in my mind he was just going to World Series every year.  But it turns out, he was traded to the Red Sox in 1995 and didn't join the Yankees until 1997.  I guess I forgot.  Stanton was a good left-handed relief pitcher.  Despite WAR not being that high for almost any relief pitcher, Stanton managed to have four seasons above 2 WAR according to Baseball-Reference.  His career ERA+ was slightly higher than average at 112 (100 is average).

Rondell White-N/A
White played for some of my favorite teams, by suiting up for the Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins.  White had three good seasons where he was almost at an All-Star level.  He's actually one of the few players who is better than I remember.  I honestly thought White was closer to replacement level than he ended up being.  I guess that's why there's a waiting period for the Hall of Fame.

Todd Walker- N/A
Walker was the best position player on the Twins when I first started rooting for them.  Walker was not very good at all.  It's a miracle that I survived and kept rooting for the Twins despite trotting out Walker as if he was a star.  Walker is one of my favorite Twins of all-time just behind Ron Coomer.

Jose Mesa- 9.95
Mesa is probably most famous for giving up the game-winning hit to Edgar Renteria in the 1997 World Series when Cleveland lost the World Series.  Mesa has always struck me as this type of pitcher who lucked into the closer role despite not being that great.  But looking back, Mesa wasn't terrible.  His 1995 season was very good and he came in 2nd in the Cy Young vote that year.  His ERA+ was 418. 

Royce Clayton- 12.57
This is ranked just on his baseball career, not his acting career.  Clayton was the classic no-hit good-glove shortstop.  His value was almost all tied up with his glove.  As he approached closer to hitting league average, his value increased, too.  His best season was 1999 when he hit .288/.346/.445 which put him at an OPS+ of 98 (average is 100) and his rWAR (Baseball Reference WAR) was 3.3.  Just to let you know, 0 WAR is replacement and 2+ is starter.

Woody Williams- 13.62
Williams was probably the best August 31 waiver deadline pickup in the history of the August 31 trade deadline.  Williams was more or less an average pitcher from 1997-2004.  People tend to underrate how valuable league average pitching is.  League average pitching is quite valuable because it allows the bullpen to rest while it keeps you in the game.  He was providing his team with about 2-3 wins each of those years which is fairly valuable.

Lee Smith- 16.91
I have Smith a lot lower than the actual Hall of Fame voters.  So, we'll look at pros and cons.
Pros: Was all-time leader in saves.  All-time ERA+ is 132.
Cons: Basically a one inning pitcher his entire career.  There's not a lot of value with closers in baseball.  Basically got to his career totals by being healthy and managers using him as a one inning pitcher.  I don't think the value that the closer adds is anywhere near worthy of the Hall of Fame outside of Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman. 

Aaron Sele- 17.34
Sele had 6 seasons of being an average to above average starter.  Sele is an exact average pitcher according to ERA+ (his career total is 100).  Sele provided all of his value by being a slightly above average pitcher for a couple of years.

Ryan Klesko- 19.23
Like all players from the Braves from the mid-1990s, I love them irrationally.  From the eye test, Klesko was terrible on defense and it shows up in his WAR.  Multiple seasons Klesko was worth negative wins in terms of defense.  Klesko had two seasons where he played close to an All-Star level in 2001 and 2002.  In 2001, he hit .286/.384/.539 with 30 homeruns and, surprisingly, 23 stolen bases.  In 2000 he stole 24.  Does anyone know why he was able to steal 20 bases in those two seasons?  Most people who ever saw Klesko, I'm sure, are surprised Klesko could steal bases.

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