Tuesday, December 31, 2013

If I had a 2014 Hall-of-Fame Ballot

The 2014 Hall-of-Fame ballot has more deserving candidates than in any year I can remember.  There were already more than 10 viable candidates on the 2013 ballot, but nobody was elected due largely to confusion and division on how to deal with players linked to the Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED).  The additions of pitchers Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine and slugger Frank Thomas make the 2014 ballot even more crowded.  There are 37 players on the ballot and writers can vote for up to 10 candidates.  Unless a voter favors a very small elite Hall of Fame, this makes it virtually impossible to fill out a ballot without leaving off some deserving names. I, of course, do not have a vote, but will fill my theoretical ballot here.

My selection process involves comparing players to their contemporaries, other players at the same position and current Hall-of-Fame members.  I value peak performance and career performance equally.  I use many traditional and advanced statistics, most of which can be found on Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.  Some of my favorites are plate appearances, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average, batting runs, wOBA,and WAR for hitters and innings pitched, ERA, pitching runs, strikeouts and WAR for pitchers.  I used multiple WAR statistics in my analysis, but any WAR cited below is Baseball-Reference WAR.

I do not bring PED use into my thought process.  The use of PEDs has been very widespread, not only in the 1990s and 2000's, but all the way back to the sixties and even further.  It is impossible to know which players stayed clean and which used and how much it affected their performance.  Eliminating or even judging players based on suspicion seems very unfair to me.  It also seems pretty obvious that the game turned a blind eye to the problem for many decades.  Thus, I consider PED use to have been part of the game and choose players solely based on their on-field performance.

Now, for my ballot:

Barry Bonds: He was the greatest player of his generation and is on a very short list of the best players ever.  You can't have a Hall of Fame without him. 

Roger Clemens: As with Bonds, it would be silly to leave Clemens out of the Hall-of-Fame.  He is one of the five best pitchers in the history of the game.

Greg Maddux: There is absolutely no excuse for leaving Maddux off the ballot.  He won four consecutive Cy Young Awards between 1992-1995, has 355 career victories and his 104.8 WAR is 6th on the all-time list of pitchers.  There is also no hint of PED use for those who take that into consideration.    

Jeff Bagwell: Not on the same level as Bonds, Clemens and Maddox, but still a slam-dunk selection.  He is 23rd all-time in Batting Runs and has a WAR comparable to Rod Carew, Joe Dimaggio and Pete Rose.   

Mike Piazza: Another automatic selection.  He is arguably the best hitting catcher ever leading all receivers in Batting Runs and Weighted Runs Created.

Frank Thomas: Spent much of his career as a designated hitter, but what a hitter he was - an amazing 156 OPS+ lifetime and 15th all-time in batting runs.  He should be an automatic selection, but some might penalize him too much for being a designated hitter.

Tom Glavine: played second fiddle to Maddux on the great Braves staffs of the 90s, but still a clear hall of famer with 305 wins, 4,400 IP and 73.6 WAR (22nd among pitchers).

Mike Mussina: Might get overlooked because he never won a Cy Young award, but had a 123 ERA+ in over 3,500 innings and his 345 Pitching Runs was an impressive 13th all-time.

Alan Trammell: He was over shadowed by Cal Ripken and slick-fielding Ozzie Smith, but his 67.1 WAR is tied with Barry Larkin for ninth all-time.

Curt Schilling: He was arguably the best post-season pitcher ever, but was a lot more than that.  He had a 127 ERA+, 3,116 strikeouts (15th best ever), 77 WAR (26th best). 

A voter can only check off ten names, but there are more than ten who deserve Hall-of-Fame status.  Falling off of my ballot from last year are Craig Biggio, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines and Larry Walker.  I still believe they belong in the Hall of Fame and would also vote for Edgar Martinez.

32 comments:

  1. I'm glad to see Alan make your list. Makes sense to me. And Piazza is indeed a slam dunk for me as well. The only issue I have is I think some of those other guys shouldn't be able to get in until Pete Rose gets in. But I also don't have any PED evidence in hand so I'm at a disadvantage from knowing what truly has gone in some of these peoples' lives. But to me Pete Rose should get in before some other people with more concerning red flags get in. Otherwise they can wait while we think about it some more.

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  2. I can't say you are wrong, Lee; certainly Clemens and Bonds had Hall of Fame careers. But then, so did Joe Jackson. I would vote for Raines and Biggio and leave the roiders off. BTW on two unrelated topics:
    I'm loving "Beyond Batting Average". You are able to write very clearly about abstruse technical issues, a rare talent. Also, there is something I have often pondered but have no idea how it could be quantified. I suspect, with no data, that the Tigers' high pitch counts in recent years may have some relationship to their defensive challenges. If bad things happen when the bad guys make contact, at least subconsciously you might tend to nibble a bit more and/or go for the strikeout. Can any correlation be proven or disproved between a team's defensive efficiency and pitch counts?
    Happy New Year, Lee!

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  3. It's probably fair to leave PED users off the ballot if you feel strongly about it, but I don't think you can compare PED use to gambling. When a player uses PEDs, he is cheating to win. When a player gambles, he is potentially cheating to lose and that completely destroys the integrity of the game. That is why gambling is the ultimate sin in sports. The only people getting cheated by PEDs are players who stay clean and may be losing out on a job or more money. For the fans, it's still a fair match between two teams trying to win.

    Opus, It would be hard to quantify, but I agree that there is a strong possibility of a connection between poor defense and pitch counts. It can definitely see it affecting the pitch selection of a pitcher like Porcello who thrives on ground balls and does not get a lot of strikeouts.

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    1. Well good points about the gambling. I'm again at a disadvantage because I don't know the facts about his gambling. All I know is what I heard which didnt sound as bad as betting against his own team but I really am completely ignorant as to what he did or didn't do so I am just not privvy to what bad things he supposedly did. And if we are judging players on character or legal transgressions then it seems to me that we need better clarity as to what kind of human behavior is unacepptable or not and in this day and age I'm pretty appalled by how some players live their lives getting paid all this big money which is ridiculously unfair and inappropriate and sinful in my mind for what some people get paid. So I just can't seem to understand what horrible sin Pete Rose made in comparison to everybody else that gets judged.

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  4. I do agree that players have done worse things in their lives than gambling or using PEDs. However, I think Rose has been banned based on principle more than character. It's possible he didn't bet against his team, but the risk of someone gambling against his own team is so damaging that baseball does not condone gambling of any kind. There is a sign in every clubhouse prohibiting gambling and every player knows the consequences. PED is now reaching the point where every player knows the consequences, but it was not at that point in the 90s and 00s when many of the candidates were playing.

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    1. Yeah well really this is all the fault of MLB for being slow to set the tone and standard with regard to PED use. Just one more complex variable in trying to compare players from different eras and circumstances. To me PED use is more than cheating the clean players, that is a violation of principles too and other people are negatively indirectly affected. I'm just not seeing proper justice in the game of baseball on a general basis for various reasons and thus I'm still somewhat confused as to the rules and the brand and image of the sport as a result. And that's a problem in my book.

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  5. I don't know how Trammell isn't in the Hall. Whitaker I can see debate on, but Trammell was fantastic.

    And I can't get too up in arms over PEDs (really, it's steroids) when you've had people popping greenies like mad back in the day too.

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    1. Oh, my ballot would look similar, but I'd drop Mussina and Schilling (this one grudingly) to put on Raines and Biggio.

      How do you have a guy who has 3000 hits and was an All Star at three different positions not be in the Hall of Fame?

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    2. I think Trammell and Whitaker should grade out about the same and they should both be in or both not be in. I strongly feel the HOF is already watered down with a ton of names that shouldn't be in there and to me that means both should get in otherwise if not then we should be taking people out of the Hall with a separate voting process to rectify past mistakes. Either make it an elite and special club or don't, but too many people get entered in that shouldn't have qualified and now the bar is lower than it should be.

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  6. Hi Lee. I like the ballot and agree with most of it, but I still see Trammell as a borderline hall of fame player. He was simply injured too much during his career. If you piece together his five best seasons he is on par with Ripken, but he has too many average seasons filtered in to be a hall of famer. I think he's borderline and would have a hard time putting Trammell in over Biggio. I'd probably put McGwire and Martinez in over him too.

    -Ben (Buddha)

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  7. Eric, I agree with you on amphetamines. I don't get why taking steroids is considered some kind of awful sin but amphetamine use is fine. Amphetamine use might not look dramatic because fans don't see body changes, but I would imagine they have a substantial cumulative effect especially when someone becomes addicted and can't plat play without them. Greenies might not help a player hit a lot of home runs, but they give him increased alertness and focus which can help him in every phase of the game. Over 162 games, that can add up to a lot. If people are going to vilify Bonds, Clemens, etc, then they really need to do the same with the amphetamine users of the 60s, 70s.

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  8. Ben, Trammell is not an automatic choice and I don't consider it a snub that he's not going to get in. I also admit bias in selecting him ahead of Biggio, but I think they both belong.

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    1. What are the top reasons that you would keep Whitaker out? Also any hope for Jack Morris?

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    2. I like the concept that when a player gets in matters. Player A might be better than Player B, but I'd still might vote for Player B over Player A if Player B had many more years of eligibility. It used to be a big thing to be voted in during a players first year of eligibility. Only the most elite players would jump to the front of the line, but that changed in the last few decades when players like Sandberg and Smith became first ballot inductees. The current logjam should make it more difficult for all but the best of the best be inducted. Hopefully enough voters will recognize players that are starting to run out of time over perhaps better players that still have time, but I think a large block of voters are going to choose their ten best players without regard to year of eligibility.

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    3. If I had a vote I would cross out some names on the ballot and write in my own names. You can count my votes if you want, or just take my vote away. Baseball code says to get the scorecard right and I'm turning mine in the right way.

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  9. I would not keep Whitaker out, but he's not on the ballot. Morris is not going to make it on this crowded ballot and he'll be off the ballot next year. He doesn't belong anyway.

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    1. Yeah I kind figured that with Morris, but you never know how the voters might feel on the last attempt and maybe one person thinks what the heck I'm going to toss him a courtesy final vote, and if enough do that well then he gets in. I figured his only chance would be to get some lucky courtesy momentum.

      And I didn't even realize Whitaker wasn't on the ballot, and just checked out the history of him being ineligible since 2001. LOL I just don't follow the HOF vote and never have, it's just not that interesting to me because of previous stated reasons where it's confusing and peculiar why some guys get in that shouldn't and some guys that should don't even come close. The only reason Whitaker popped in mind is because I have seen so many of these HOF articles about Tram and Whitaker lately and I thought they were both on the ballot this year!

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  10. Wasn't offensive production up across the board during the steroid era? Aren't you overvaluing the production of Bonds, Bagwell, Piazza, et al when compare them to past players without attempting to adjust for the different eras?

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    1. Jeff, there are many stats such as OPS+, ERA+, WAR that adjust for era. I would never do a Hall of Fame analysis without adjusting for era.

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    2. Oh yeah. I forgot that it's built right into those stats.

      Comparing to a contemporary baseline certainly goes a long way towards adjusting for era, but I wonder if it does enough to address the steroid issue. When the league switched to a different type of ball, changed the mound height, instituted the DH, etc, those changes affected the entire league with in a largely uniform way. The relative distance between the outliers and the baseline probably wouldn't be affected by the new rules.

      It seems like steroids would actually change the standard deviation of the curve, though. If the baseline players are clean and the all-stars are juicing, it seems like it would be easier for the all-stars to rack up points in any stat that compares them to the baseline.

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  11. If only the stars were juicing I would agree. However, It seems very unlikely to me that only the stars would be juicing and the other players would be staying clean. If anything there is more motivation for the lesser players to juice because it could mean the difference between getting a major league salary and getting a real job. I also find it difficult to believe that competitive people are going to see stars juicing and succeeding and not doing something to keep up with them. For those reasons, I've always believed that, prior to testing, the majority of players used PEDs.

    In general, when one tries to rank players from different eras relative to league average, the best players from earlier eras tend to fare better than players from more modern eras. That is OK, of course, in cases when they actually were better, but in many cases they were getting an unfair advantage. What seems to be a drop in quality of star players over time is often actually a decrease in the spread of talent. In the early days of the game, there was a relatively small percentage of players who could play the game really well. So, these players were way ahead of the average player.

    In more modern times, there is a larger pool of players from which to draw (largely due to the integration of African Americans, Latinos and Asians) and more players have learned how to play the game well. Thus the best players are not so far ahead of the average ones. In other words, the best players are not getting worse, rather the average player is getting better.

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    1. All fair points. The way I see it, there are three possibilities:

      * PED use was uniformly distributed throughout the talent pool
      * PED use was skewed towards the bottom end of the talent pool
      * PED use was skewed towards the top end of the talent pool

      Any idea how to quantify which one it was? Speaking in general terms, if we had a pre-PED era talent curve, we could compare that to the PED era talent curve to see if the PED era skews in one direction or the other. As you point out, however, the curve has been fairly dynamic over the century, so getting a "control" curve would be no simple matter. I would think that if you plotted enough annual curves, you could detect the trends and plot where the curve would have been if the PEDs hadn't flooded in. It would be even easier if we assumed that PED use has gone down significantly in the past few years.

      Thoughts?

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    2. Well the thing is that in 20 years it really won't matter, because by then there will new types of modern science that any person will likely be able to radically transform their body type and in a legal and healthy way. So PEDs won't really exist as a concept in due time. The way to get the next advantage would be to break the rules with regard to nanotechnology infusing into the body or some kind of technological form of cheating.

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    3. I agree with that. Some day people will look back at the "steroid era" and be amazed that people were so upset about it. What I want now is a safe healthy drug that can make me 20 again.

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    4. It won't be a drug. There will be very different processes to alter your physical makeup.

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  12. It's really hard to measure for the reasons you stated and other reasons. First, the increase in offense during he so called steroid era was not all due to steroids. Some of it was the expansion to four more teams in a very short period of time. History has shown that offense always increases after expansion probably because pitching gets diluted more than hitting - it's harder to find 48 MLB pitchers than 52 MLB hitters. Plus, umpires were calling really tight strike zones and the majority of new parks were hitter friendly. So, you'd have to tease out all those factors before isolating the PED effect.

    Compounding the problem is that the strike zone has "increased" 5% in the last few years according to pitch f/X (it hasn't actually increased of course but umpires are calling it better because they know they are being checked by cameras). In fact, most of the decrease in offense the last couple of years has been due to more strikeouts rather than less power. Homeruns are down, but percent of balls in play that result in homers are not down much.

    So, I guess the short answer is we'll probably never know how much steroid use affected the final stats.

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  13. Also, does baseball allow a player to be voted in as a Designated Hitter? Frank Thomas shouldn't get in as a First Baseman since he only played about 6 full seasons worth of fielding in his career, so it makes sense that he could be the first player that should get in as a DH.

    Also it would be interesting to know what other players have the smallest number of innings played at the position they were inducted in.

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  14. I'm hearing a lot of chatter about Biggio, why does everybody seem to like him so much more than some of these other great players? I would rather see Fred McGriff get in than Biggio, or even Jeff Kent. That's 2 guys not mentioned here that should get more votes.

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  15. Biggio was a strong hitting second baseman with amazing durability which is what puts him over the top. He reached base 4,505 times which is 17th on the all-time list and 2nd highest for a second baseman to Eddie Collins. He was a good base runner and even caught for a few years. The whole package makes him a hall of famer. Kent is close to HoF caliber and I would argue too much if someone selected him. McGriff doesn't cut it for me. Given that he was a 1B/DH playing in the most offensive era ever, I don't think he had enough elite years to qualify.

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    1. Well I don't have an issue with Biggio, but it seems to me that Kent was a second basemen too and a better one. But even if you can make the case that Biggio has more WAR per year than Kent since that is a valid observation, then I just still don't see the separation there for Biggio being one of only a very few that make the HOF this year. Although that's assuming he gets in on a short group. It just doesn't make much sense if only 4 players get in and somehow Biggio is one of the 4.

      And I'm having a really tough time understanding how Frank Thomas gets in with having far less time in the field than McGriff. He has 11,000 MORE innings played in the field than Frank.

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  16. Well apparently the results are in, and only 3 made it. WOW. And Biggio at 0.2% short of making it was in fact 4th, double wow. I am surprised he got more votes than Mike Piazza.

    Maddux / Glavine / Thomas = new HOFers

    And no Barry Bonds, but Biggio is in, that's still bizarre to swallow.

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    1. I mean presumably in next year for Biggio.

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