Thursday, August 18, 2011

Twenty Guys Who Should Be Out of the Hall of Fame

By Bill


Yesterday, SweetSpot's David Schoenfield came up with one of those fun posts you usually only see in the dreary baseballless (three L's!) months of December and January: "Ten guys who should be in the Hall of Fame," in which he names the one player at each position, among those with HOF eligibility who aren't in yet, that he believes should be. Some of the choices (Larry Walker, Kevin Brown) are pretty surprising and controversial to a lot of people, but I actually agree with all of them with the exception of Dale Murphy, and given his one-line description, I got the sense that Mr. Schoenfield probably wasn't a big believer in Murphy either. You need a centerfielder, and until Jim Edmonds, Kenny Lofton and Andruw Jones are eligible, there won't really be any huge snubs out there at that position.

Anyway. The most common complaint in the comments to the piece -- other than "put Pete Rose in!!!!" which was brilliant since, you know, Pete isn't actually eligible and so doesn't qualify for consideration -- was that the Hall has become too "watered down" recently, was intended to be for the best of the best, and shouldn't be cheapened by including any of David's picks.

Which is baloney for a number of reasons, chief among them that, as I've written at length before, that's just a misstatement of or ignorance over what the Hall of Fame actually is. It's never been for the best of the best; the Hall was founded in 1936, and it took all the way until the fourth class in 1939 for them to induct Candy Cummings (a mediocre short-career pitcher who definitely didn't invent the curveball) and until the fifth for Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance (who were the subjects of a poem, not actually poets, in much the same way Tommy John doesn't deserve much credit for Tommy John Surgery, and were not great baseball players). The Hall has been "watered down" since at least year four, and has been proceeding at about the same level ever since.

But enough of that. Each of Schoenfield's ten (save Murphy, at least) is a lot closer to the median Hall of Famer at his position than he is to the bottom of the list, so they wouldn't contribute to the watering-down at all. But, there are a lot of guys in the Hall who just don't belong under any reasonable standard. So let's kick twenty of them out, un-dilute the pool a little bit, and then we'll have plenty of room freed up for David's ten. I'll do what Schoenfield did and go by position, except that there aren't even two DHes in the Hall, so I'll add in two extra players at other positions and skip DH. And: just to be different, I won't even use Jim Rice, even though everyone knows (or should know) that he doesn't belong. So here we go:

Catcher: Ray Schalk, Rick Ferrell
It's astounding that with just twelve individuals in history having been inducted into the Hall of Fame for their contributions as Major League catchers, two of those twelve are as uninspiring as these two. His OPS+ of 83 is equal to Miguel Olivo's career mark, and he was certainly good behind the plate, maybe great, but that's not nearly enough so to make up for his Olivoness for Hall purposes. He seems to have benefited from sort of a reverse halo effect, being one of the only clean major players on the 1919 White Sox.
TCM talked me out of including Ernie Lombardi here. I'm not a big fan of the Schnozz, but Ferrell was worse. A slightly better hitter than Schalk, but still just about average for the position, without a single year in his entire career (which spanned 18 seasons, but just 11 of over 100 games) that you'd even call a good one, without giving him a ton more credit for his defense than Total Zone does.

First Base: High Pockets Kelly, Orlando Cepeda
George Kelly -- who I always saw referred to as just that until Baseball-Reference started listing him as "High Pockets" not too long ago -- was an entirely mediocre first baseman, save one good year in 1924. Lucky for him, his infield neighbor that year was Frankie Frisch, with whom (and Hack Wilson and Ross Youngs) he led the Giants to the World Series and who, years later, would take control of the Veterans' Committee and usher all his old buddies through the door.
The Baby Bull's 46.8 rWAR falls behind Mark Grace, Fred McGriff, Norm Cash, John Olerud, Will Clark, Keith Hernandez, and Dick Allen, among others, and is awfully close to a guy named Ed Konetchy. Three brilliant (but not at all earth-shattering) years strewn throughout an otherwise average seventeen-year career.

Second Base: Red Schoendienst, Bill Mazeroski
I don't know what the Veterans' Committee saw in Schoendienst in 1989 that made them think "yep, Hall of Famer." He was a useful player for a long time, almost exactly like his #1 Baseball-Reference comp, Tony Fernandez.
I'm partial to Maz because I think a special exception can be made for the greatest of all time at defending a key position, 26.9 WAR and all. But we're trying to make room for Lou Whitaker here, who's just a dead-center, no-doubt Hall of Famer (as I wrote here), so I'll make the sacrifice. Bobby Doerr could depart in Maz's stead, almost as easily.

Third Base: Pie Traynor, George Kell, Freddie Lindstrom
Third base is the most underrepresented position in the entire Hall, with only ten inductees who can list third as their primary position, and three of them are among the very worst players on the list. Ron Santo, Graig Nettles, Sal Bando, Buddy Bell, Ken Boyer, Darrell Evans, and Robin Ventura each have pretty strong cases for induction, and each was twice the player any of these three guys were.
All three of Traynor, Kell and Lindstrom have basically the same story -- got almost all their value from their batting average, which wasn't that great when you consider the eras they played in, and they didn't last long enough to pile up enough just-above-mediocre seasons to look anything like Hall of Fame players. The weird thing is that Traynor, for a long time, was considered the best third baseman in history, largely because it was an awfully weak position for the first sixty or seventy years of the game's history (but Frank Baker was much better).

Shortstop: Rabbit Maranville, Travis Jackson
Maranville was elected by the writers in 1954, which again puts the lie to the notion that the Hall used to be some kind of exclusive pantheon limited to elite legends. He's a bit in the Mazeroski mold -- almost all his value came from his phenomenal defense, and at least from a purely objective standpoint, with 38.2 WAR, it's just not nearly enough.
This is starting to get repetitive, but, yeah, Jackson was another Frisch buddy (and a member of that same 1924 team as Frisch and Kelly, but notice that I didn't even mention him; he was just that bland).

Left Field: Chick Hafey, Heinie Manush
Hafey makes it because I couldn't bring myself to list a guy with 3000 hits and the second-most steals of all-time (but I wanted to). Hafey benefited hugely from the offensive environment of the twenties and thirties, but still amassed fewer than 1500 hits and only 164 home runs in a short career.
If you've never heard of Heinie Manush, I hope you'll be brave and admit it below. Because I know there are a few of you. It was the twenties, he hit for a pretty average and a lot of doubles. Blah.

Center Field: Lloyd Waner, Earle Combs
I mentioned the halo effect above? Waner got to play on the same team as his really, really good brother, and Combs got to play with Ruth and Gehrig. And, the twenties and thirties let them both put up .310-plus batting averages. Combs' career was way too short, and Waner was just never very good. There are loads of center fielders who will never see the Hall that were better than both.

Right Field: Tommy McCarthy, Chuck Klein
McCarthy is the worst player in the Hall, among those inducted for their play. He was a mediocre player in seven of his nine even arguably "full" seasons--four of them in the old American Association--putting up 19 WAR total. He didn't hit .300 for his career or do anything even remotely interesting. A bunch of the Old Timers Committee members (who put him in way back in '46) must have been thinking of somebody else.
Klein's career is almost painful to look at. In his first five full years, he led the National League in homers four times, runs three, hits twice, doubles once, RBI twice, stolen bases once, batting average and on-base percentage once each, and slugging three times; then he left the friendly right-field fence in Philadelphia for the much less Friendly Confines of Chicago, and never came close to leading the league in any category again. Klein was a better player than Dante Bichette, probably, but the major difference between the two is that Coors helps everybody, not just lefties who can hit really high medium-deep fly balls, so OPS+ and WAR know that Bichette was a fraud. Klein, or more accurately Baker Bowl, confound the system, as they apparently did the Veterans' Committee.

Pitcher: Rube Marquard, Catfish Hunter, Bruce Sutter
Marquard was one of the original bonus babies, raking in a boggling $11,000 bonus when he signed with the Giants in 1908. He never did anything particularly Hall of Fame-ish, just put up a few pretty good years during which he was blessed to be playing for very good Giants teams, such that he racked up a bunch of wins in those years (but still ended just 201-177).
Hunter had three really good years, and a whole bunch of not-even-average ones. His case is based entirely on wins...224-166. He did get 20+ wins five years in a row, since he was pitching for the two best teams in the AL of the time (the early-seventies A's and mid-seventies Yankees).
I think Sutter is the worst choice the writers have ever made. He barely made it ten full seasons in the bigs, and "full" is a relative term probably not applicable to 100-innings-a-year relievers. If you're going to get in the Hall on the strength of 1000 innings, they better be great innings, and Sutter's just weren't. He was a good closer, but absolutely nothing special apart from a couple lights-out seasons. John Franco, Dan Quisenberry, Tom Henke, and Billy Wagner all have cases about as good as Sutter's.

Boom, there you have it. Twenty guys out, and then ten guys in, all of them much, much more qualified than any of the twenty they're replacing. What's the opposite of watering down?

25 comments:

Jeff P. said...

Well done, Bill. An article that was a long time coming. While we're at it, can we toss Gary Carter out? Always thought he was an overrated self-promoter, plus he started the winning rally in the infamous Calvin Schiraldi game in the '86 WS, so there's that.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article, and I'll admit to not knowing Manush and confusing Waner with his brother Paul (think the HoF did the same?).

The opposite of "watering down" is distillation.

The Common Man said...

I don't know how Doerr is your next stop in the 2B list. Doerr lost a full year to World War II, but still finished ahead of Nellie Fox in WAR. If someone is hellbent on keeping Maz, Fox has got to be the next to go.

The Common Man said...

Also, it's a judgment call, but I'd boot out Ross Youngs before I set my sights on Chuck Klein. Neither of them belong, however. Maybe leave Traynor in and get rid of the two terrible RFers.

Bill said...

I picked Doerr rather than Fox because I really like Fox, but it's a good point about the war year. Really, Maz is my version of Schoenfield's Murphy; I didn't really think two 2Bs deserved to go (that's the only position at which I'd say that), but I felt duty-bound to pick two anyway. I'd keep everybody at that position except ol' Red.

Bill said...

Oh, and Jeff, thanks. But I was on very much pro-Gary Carter for the Hall for a long time, and I think he comfortably belongs, so I can't join in on that one.

Gadfly said...

You've got the wrong Frank Baker and Keith Hernandez linked.

As for throwing people out, I could throw out at least another dozen besides what you did. And have:

http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2011/01/who-would-you-vote-back-out-of-mlb-hof_03.html

Bill said...

Thanks. BBREF does them automatically, and I don't always have the nergy to double-check. It was supposed to exclude minors, though, so the Hernandez thing is interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hey, remember, it is the hall of fame, not the hall of excellence in the field of achievement as is related to statistical evaluations. I guess that I am just bitter at the anti-Murphy sentiment radiating from this site. Sure, Dale was a flash in the pan, but that flash burned brighter than most. Are there any other multiple MVP winners not in? I think there may be. People need to get off their soapboxes and high horses, because there is plenty of room at the HOF. I don't get why people are so hell bent on keeping players out. What? If you catch a glimpse of Dale Murphy's plaque whilst pleasuring thyself to the image of Babe and the Mick, you'll become impotent? I myself am a Baseball Prospectus, Bill James reading stat-head nerd, but I feel the more inclusive the HOF is, the more relevant it will continue to be.

Anonymous said...

RE:Multiple MVP winners not in...just off the top of my head Maris. And as far as Red not being deserving at 2B, he got in on the same basis Torre will eventually. Good player on good teams that eventually managed good teams. People seem to forget that no one favored the 67-8 Cardinals and the job that Red did with that group.

Bill said...

On Murphy: its name is the Hall of Fame; its purpose is to recognize the greatest baseball players. And Murphy had great years, but just doesn't meet the standard.

On Red: I don't know. Those teams were awfully talented. And Torre would get in as manager if he'd never played a game in MLB. The hybrid thing is a fine idea, but I don't know that it's happened yet or will anytime soon.

Lotaso said...

"I couldn't bring myself to list a guy with 3000 hits and the second-most steals of all-time (but I wanted to)."

I ran through all the numbers before and found his the most jarring. How can someone we thought was so good really be so bad?

Derek said...

Lou had a large part of his value from the SB. I think the value of the SB has been set at such a level, that along with CS, makes the contribution to an offense pretty minimal. Combine that with a Bichette-level K/BB rate, and a penchant for making outs. not to mention according to Bill James in his Historical Abstract, was not particularly good, and you have a player who did one thing spectacularly well, and everything else average at best. As far as Manush, I will admit to hearing of him before. I believe he was Ty Cobb's protege, who was quickly traded from the Tigers when Cobb left..according to the same James book.

Anonymous said...

Awhile back (10 years or more, I've been unable to find it in the archives), ESPN.com ran an article where the author suggested creating the hall as a physical and symbolic pyramid. Put the very best in the top - once in a generation players like Ruth, Williams, Mays, etc. The next level down would have the truly great players, but they were missing the dominance of the very best. I think the recommendation was for four or five levels. Anyway, we can build this pyramid by putting your 20 in the basement. Great article, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Of course I found it ten seconds later. The author was Bill Simmons. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/020108a

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Very good "first read in the morning" piece. Me and my coffee thank you.

Adam Darowski said...

Bill, this is a great article.

A while back, as you know, I created a "Hall of wWARK" where I subjectively re-populated the Hall of Fame based on peak-weighted WAR, very much doing the same type of thing as you did here (kicking guys out, adding some back in). I ended up bumping 66 and adding a new 66.

We agree on all 20 of these guys.

I actually did put Murphy in. He represented the borderline. I'm working on a revision to the system, and I'm afraid Murphy won't make the cut the second time (going to adjust for season length, among other factors). wWAR (peak-weighted) was made for guys like Murphy. The truth is, his raw WAR is somewhat low. But, his peak was so good that it makes him JUST ABOUT a Hall of Famer.

My CF on Schoenfield's list easily would have been Jim Wynn. I would have also picked Cesar Cedeno or Willie Davis (or perhaps even George Gore) over Murphy.

As far as second basemen, I actually had a LOT of turnover:

OUT: Lazzeri, Evers, Doerr, Fox, Schendienst, Mazeroski
IN: Grich, Whitaker, Randolph, Childs

Anyway, great post!

Bill said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Adam: the irony of this post is that I'm actually kind of a "Big Hall" guy. I can see the argument for taking all those other 2Bs out, but they're close enough that I don't see any harm in leaving them in, either. Totally agree on putting Grich, Whitaker and Randolph in, though (probably Childs too, but I just hadn't thought about him much).

Charles Simone said...

Great post Bill, and great insight on the Hall of Fame being watered down for just about as long as it's existed.

I was, however, hoping to see Lou Brock kicked out, as I consider him the most over-rated player of all-time.

I will admit to having heard of Heinie Manush. He was part of my Strat-O-Matic Hall of Famers set, as was Ray Schalk and Pie Traynor. There among a number of players that made me do a double-take when I realized they weren't as legendary as I thought being included in that set meant.

If any of you commenters haven't read Adam's Hall of wWAR work, click the link in his comment above and check it out. Great stuff.

Richard said...

Bill,

A point about some of the defensive players you've listed: BWAR is not really an appropriate measure for them, since neither its pitching nor fielding evaluations take into account the whole DIPS revolution. In principle, a team could have mediocre pitching and outstanding fielding, and the method used by Baseball-Reference would not distinguish them from a team with mediocre fielding and great pitching. If you look at the cubs from 1906-1910, you'll notice that they win as many or more games than any other team over a 5 season period, that they have the best defensive efficiency stats of any team ever, and a bunch of their pitchers during those years were great with the Cubs and just ok with anyone else. That sure makes it look like this was a pretty fine defensive team, but if you total up their BrefWAR, and add it to the roughly 49 games a replacement level team would win in a 154 game season, you get a "projected" win total for each season way, way below the Cubs actual win total. That supports my contention that BrefWAR isn't properly weighting fielding.

Anyway, this is all a long winded way of pointing out that Bill James' Win-Loss Shares shows Tinker and Maranville to be reasonably well qualified HOFs, and his method carefully incorporates DIPS-based insights into valuing fielding contributions.

The Baseball Idiot said...

No one should be out of the Hall. It's for the fans. I might not agree with every choice, but someone did. Not all of my choices are in.

Doesn't matter. Worrying about who is in, or isn't, just distracts from the ideal.

Chip said...

On Catfish Hunter...let's put it this way. Jack Morris has a better case than Hunter.

Anonymous said...

Pie Traynor was a great player. Yes I know he's not PC cuz he didn't walk enough, but gimme a break-7 100 rbi seasons, great d, a .320 lifetime average, some speed, clearly the NL's best 3b pre-Eddie Mathews. He's not pc in Stat-borg land, but-putting him on this list is just silly.

Manush is another one. Scramble his stats w/ Paul Waner and you have the same guy, just he didn't do it as long. He's Jose Cruz Sr. or Buckner or Al Oliver w/ the bat, and like it or not, that .330 lifetime average does count. 'He had lotsa doubles 'blah'. Yeah and Jimmy Wynn was Ron Gant St. Please. Manush didn't have pretty walk totals so he knee jerk gets put onto these inane lists.

Finally-Bobby Doerr?! seriously? Owch. That's not credible.

Bill said...

Thanks for the laugh, Anonymous. I kind of like that you're trying to bring "PC" back as a thing (albeit in a really weird and hilarious way).

I'm tempted to just make fun of your amazing spelling and use of punctuation, but I'll throw you a bone: Pie Traynor hit .320 at a time during which the average hitter hit .294. If Traynor had hit .320 in the Astrodome during Jim Wynn's career (when/where the average hitter hit .257), he'd be a great hitter even without drawing walks or having much power. As it is, though, he was just a pretty good hitter who played in a time that allowed him to put up really pretty numbers. You could make an argument that he was the best NL 3B before Mathews (and not a very good one at that), but that's just a really weak group.

In re: Paul Waner's doing it, the length thereof is actually pretty key. Waner was quite a bit better than Manush even on a per-game basis, but here's a non-exclusive list of guys who, as hitters, you could reasonably say were "the same guy[s]" but "just...didn't do it as long": Gavvy Cravath, Albert Belle, Charlie Keller, Lefty O'Doul, Kevin Mitchell, Darryl Strawberry, Ken Williams, Al Rosen, or, if they retired today, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, David Wright or Adrian Gonzalez. Hell, Buster Posey is approaching Waner-like numbers, if you don't care about how long he did it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bill: Please put inflatable doll of Jimmy Wynn down. Leave the over reliance on unproven Metric of the day to the Rob Neyers.

Plus your slip is showing.