Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Baseball Post

Time for some Hall of Fame blogging, in advance of the old timers ballot, which has ten names: Ron Santo, Gil Hodges, Luis Tiant, Minnie Minoso, Charles Finley, Tony Oliva, Buzzie Bavasi, Ken Boyer, Allie Reynolds, and Jim Kaat.

Where to start? With Santo, I think, since he's an easy call. Longtime sabermetric fave, and a terrific hitter and fielder; the only knock is a short career, but he's a very comfortable fit with other HOF 3Bs.

I'll get rid of Hodges, Oliva, and Boyer together; I don't think any of them are close. Boyer isn't totally out of the question, but he's a solid step down from Santo with the bat, and I don't see him making that up with the glove. Oliva and Hodges both have undeserved reputations for being underrated, and both are significantly below HOF level for their positions. Actually, Reynolds fits in here too; he and Hodges would be forgotten if they had different teammates.

I don't know of any reason to put Bavazi in. As far as Finley, certainly not. Yes, there are some reasons to remember him well, but overall? No thanks.

That leaves Kaat, Tiant, and Minoro. Here are the three SPs on the list:
                            IP              ERA+
Kaat               4530               108
Tiant               3486                115
Reynolds         2492               110

Truth is, I wouldn't be that upset with either Kaat or Tiant in the Hall. Kaat, of course, pitched for a long time, which is a lot of his value. He was never a great pitcher, though; he had a handful of years where he was a legit All Star, but that's about it -- in other words, if everything went right he would be a legit Cy also-ran. That, plus 25th all time in that a HOFer? Tiant, on the other hand, had the makings of a solid peak, but alas had a three year break at ages 28-30 with injuries and ineffectiveness that really cuts a hole out of his HOF case. The problem is that there are lots of guys like that -- for example, Rick Reuschel is almost a perfect comp, with 3548 IP and a 114 ERA+, and a vaguely similar career hole (ages 33-35, in his case). Granted, there are some guys like that in the HOF -- Catfish Hunter, Jim Bunning -- but as much as I'm a big HOF person I don't want everyone in that group to go in.

Minnie Minoso, however, is a HOFer, and should really get in. It's funny...on the surface, he and Oliva have a lot in common. But Minoso is just a bit better across the board, and it all adds credits him with 53 WAR, compared to 42 for Olivo. That's the difference between a solid player and a fringe HOFer, and if Minoso is a fringe case then he gets my vote.

So I would support Santo and Minoso, bother fairly easy cases for me, and none of the others, with only Kaat really a tough call at all. I don't know; maybe Boyer is a tough call, but at any rate I'd just go with two.


  1. Yes, but have you looked at the regular ballot? Pretty underwhelming.

  2. For me, Oliva is a closer call than he is for you. Only 11 full seasons, but the first 8 were brilliant. In that stretch, his lowest OPS+ was 130, and the average was about 140. For his career, even with three full seasons of 109, 108, and 103 (at ages 34-36), his OPS+ was 131. Rookie of the year, an all-star in his first 8 full seasons, no lower than 19th in MVP voting in that period (and 5 top-10 finishes). Led the AL in 15 offensive categories in those 11 years (other than AB, Puckett only led in 6 during his 11 full seasons). He probably should have been in the majors at age 23 (minor league OPS+ of 936 during those two years); he hit .438 in two cups-of-coffee. Then, of course, in 1972, he tore up a knee...

    I don't know if it's enough, but he's better than a lot of people who are in (including Kirby Puckett--124 OPS+, also in 11 full seasons; better counting stats because of a difference in offensive context; miles better than Earle Combs). Would I vote for him? Probably. The man could flat-out hit, he ran the bases well (a bad base-stealer, though), and, before the knee forced him into a DH role, he was an outstanding fielder (6.3 WAR on defense, according to Baseball Reference; Puckett, 6 Gold Gloves notwithstanding, has only 1.8 defensive WAR--and 2.9 of that was in his rookie season).

  3. So you'd give Hodges no additional credit for his managerial career? As you might guess I am a Mets fan.

  4. Yeah, Oliva is probably the most obvious call in this bunch. He was MLB royalty, and reigned up in the Minnesota cold of early Spring and late Fall, unlike so many others (and I love Puckett, but the Homerdome pinball game was nothing like what the great Tony Oliva had to play).

    That's where the sabermetric geeks lose it, because their geekiness really can't describe the game of baseball, not in its fullness. It's sorta like issues based polling in politics, which we all know doesn't describe politics.

    Data collection is important, but it's the data management and analysis, properly collected and fully narrated, using what we engineers call "engineering judgment", that brings data usage into full flower. The sabermetric geeks rarely possess engineering judgment.

  5. Dear Anonymous: I am a fully-certified sabermetric geek, and it's clear to me that there's a strong sabermetric case for Oliva (and Santo and Minoso, who are the three I'd vote for) and Tiant (on the bubble for me and, for that matter, Kaat and Hodges (just off the bubble). In fact, sabermetrics is all but entirely about analysis and judgment, not about data collection.

    But it can be done badly, just as engineering can be done badly (and then buildings or bridges fall down, right?). So let's go easy on the broad-brush characterizations...

  6. There's a perception that Santo had a short career, because he was washed up at age 34, but in a sense, it's not true. He started very young (a regular at age 20) and was very durable, so he still is 8th all-time for games played at third base. Santo played more games at third base than Pie Traynor, or Chipper Jones, or Ron Cey, or George Brett, or Matt Williams.

  7. I agree with most of your analysis. Santo is a true no-brainer--one of the best players (not just at his position) ever and certainly of the 60s. Boyer was the next-best-thing-to-Santo at 3B for a while, and probably a tougher call than might be obvious. Minoso clearly is deserving. The rest are behind these three--if any deserve the honor, maybe Oliva who was for several years an amazing elite player.

  8. Have to disagree with you, doc. The sabermetric geeks I've come across seem to focus exclusively on data, to the degree that they get themselves into a state which we engineers call a "data swamp". They have everything, but they have nothing, if you know what I mean. That's where judgment would have to come in, but they always seem to fall back on statistics. That just can't describe baseball.

    Now, perhaps you're that rare saber guy who truly understands the game, and can use the saber tools to enhance that understanding. Good. That's how data should be used. It's a tool, not an end result. The sabermetric geeks seem to use it as an end in itself.

    Which is probably why they wind up pushing Santo for the Hall, a guy that almost nobody thought deserved such, up until the saber geeks came along. Why? He just never impacted the games like Hall caliber players must. They seem to fall back on "defense" to support their assertions, but as they say, "shake a tree and a dozen gloves fall out". It's the O that counts, and it must count under pressure, in big games, and it must be produced in large volume. You could have stuck Rob Deer at 3rd for the Cubs and he'd about do what Santo did, and nobody talks about Deer for the Hall, just as they never used to for Santo.

    No offense to the saber geeks. They have their place, but first thing's first.

  9. So Anonymous apparently would kick Ernie Banks and Ty Cobb out of the HoF because of their failures to produce in big games under pressure. I guess everyone has their own criteria. Oh, I'm not a saber geek and maintain that Santo and Brooks Robinson were the premier third basemen of their era, among the best ever. Santo was the better hitter, Brooks the better defender, and overall equally great. Brooks had a couple unimpressive seasons before Santo's arrival, and a couple unimpressive seasons after Santo, and deservably has been in the HOF since 1983.

  10. No, Santo and Robinson were not "equally great".

    One was a first ballot Hall of Famer.

    The other wasn't even close to that status. Not even close.

  11. catfish hunter was the BEST pitcher of his era

  12. was gil hodges better than bill mazeroski

  13. "He was never a great pitcher, though; he had a handful of years where he was a legit All Star, but that's about it -- in other words, if everything went right he would be a legit Cy also-ran."

    JHB -- Have you considered Jim Kaat's 1966 season? Clearly the best pitcher in the AL, he was unfortunate enough to post his finest season in the last year where the Cy Young was an award for both leagues, and Sandy Koufax was taking his final bow in the AL.

    That said, I think you got it right that Santo and Minoso are the cream of this crop. One out of two isn't bad, although I suppose this means that, like poor Santo, Minoso will finally make the HOF the year after he goes to the Great Clubhouse in the Sky. Which stinks.

  14. Correction...Koufax was in the NL, of course.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?