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.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Who is the Best Ground Ball Pitcher in Baseball?

Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin is excellent at getting outs on ground balls
(Photo Credit: USA Today)

In an earlier post, I examined the performance of major league pitchers on ground balls in 2013 and learned that the Tigers staff had the highest Batting Average Against (BAA) on grounders.  The theory was that their generally immobile infield defense was giving up a lot of hits, but it did not seem to have affected all pitchers the same way.  While the staff had a .278 average on ground balls (versus an MLB average of .241), Anibal Sanchez was apparently unaffected posting a .243 average.  So, I was curious to see what other pitchers in the majors had better than expected results on ground balls.

One year of data doesn't give us a good sample of ground balls to work with for individual pitchers, so I expanded to three years (2011-2013).  Table 1 below shows the top ground ball BAAs for pitchers allowing at least 400 ground balls from 2011-2013.  The leader was Rockies right hander Jhoulys Chacin at .176 (He was also the leader when I did this  previously for 2010-2012).  Chacin was a moderate ground ball pitcher during the period with a 49% ground ball rate on batted balls.  Given that Chacin played half his games in Coors Field, a power hitter's paradise, his ability to gets outs on ground balls was certainly advantageous. 

Table 1: Batting Average Against on Ground Balls, 2011-2013

Pitcher
GB
H
BAA
Jhoulys Chacin
709
125
.176
Scott Feldman
516
99
.192
Johnny Cueto
651
130
.200
Henderson Alvarez
677
136
.201
Mike Leake
846
170
.201
Jeanmar Gomez
402
81
.201
Jered Weaver
570
116
.204
Ricky Romero
681
139
.204
Jordan Zimmermann
767
157
.205
Brad Ziegler
432
89
.206
Hisashi Iwakuma
490
102
.208
Tim Lincecum
772
161
.209
Jarrod Parker
493
104
.211
Shaun Marcum
454
96
.211
Luke Hochevar
632
134
.212

The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet.

Some pitchers benefited from better infield defense than others with team ground ball BAAs ranging from .230 for the Reds to .266 for the Tigers.  That is not necessarily all defense of course.  It could have been that some staffs allowed harder hit ground balls than others.  Over three years, however, I would guess that averages would even out enough to suggest something about team defense.  I attempted to adjust for differences in infield defense by calculating the ground ball BAA of other pitchers on the same staff.  For example, Chacin had a .144 BAA in 2011 compared to .251 for other Colorado pitchers.  So, his BAA was 43% better than the average pitcher giving him a BAA+ of 143 that year.

Chacin's numbers in 2012 and 2013 were 121 and 114 respectively and the weighted average of all three years was 128.  Thus, he was 28% better at avoiding hits on ground balls than the average pitcher.  Table 2 below shows that this was also the top BAA+ on ground balls in the majors.  The worst pitcher at preventing hits on ground balls was former Yankees' right hander Phil Hughes at 72 (28% worse than average).     

Table 2: Adjusted Batting Average Against on Ground Balls, 2011-2013

 Pitcher
GB
H
BAA
BAA+
Jhoulys Chacin
709
125
.176
128
Luke Hochevar
632
134
.212
120
Scott Feldman
516
99
.192
119
Lucas Harrell
508
109
.215
118
Chris Sale
590
128
.217
117
Jeanmar Gomez
402
81
.201
116
Hisashi Iwakuma
490
102
.208
116
Johnny Cueto
651
130
.200
116
Brad Ziegler
432
89
.206
115
Hiroki Kuroda
924
205
.222
115
Henderson Alvarez
677
136
.201
115
Mike Leake
846
170
.201
115
Jordan Zimmermann
767
157
.205
115
Scott Diamond
613
137
.223
114
Justin Verlander
791
184
.233
114

The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet.

Looking at Tigers pitchers, Verlander's 233 BAA did not make the top 50, but his 114 BAA+ was 15th in baseball as he was better at preventing hits on grounders than other Tigers pitchers.  Conversely, Max Scherzer was one of the worst in the majors with an 85 BAA+.  So, it's good that he is an extreme fly ball pitcher as well as a strikeout artist.  Other current and former Tigers pitchers include Doug Fister (109), Anibal Sanchez (100) and Rick Porcello (98).  Note that Sanchez's statistics also include time with the Marlins. 

I put the numbers for all MLB pitchers in 2011-2013 into a Google spreadsheet.

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