Earlier this week, my post on John Franco and the Hall of Fame inspired some great discussion. Posters commented on my opinions and the HOF cases for Trevor Hoffman and Goose Gossage. This topic interests me quite a bit, so I’d like to open it up a bit more. What should we use as criteria for Hall of Fame membership?
I think that there are two smart schools of thought, and the old school dumb school of thought. Everyone is familiar with the old school way – how many hits does he have? How many home runs does he have? How many wins does the pitcher have? Today, how many saves does he have? These are all dumb criteria for entry that I don’t think I need to address.
The first smart school of thought is that the Hall of Fame should contain the players who contributed to winning games the most over their career, represented by a holistic statistic like WAR. This has a lot of intellectual and intuitive feel. The best players both played a lot and played very well. Players who didn’t play a lot or didn’t play very well just weren’t as good. Under this logic, Barry Bonds is the best post-WWII hitter of all time, followed by Willie Mays and Stan Musial, and Roger Clemens is the best post-WWII hitter of all time, followed by Tom Seaver and Greg Maddux. Using this view, very little is up for debate. You check out the WAR leaderboards at Baseball Reference and make a decision.
The second school of thought is that the Hall of Fame should look for some combination of dominance and longevity, though not strictly in the form mentioned above. Under this view, guys like Scott Rolen (66 career WAR and counting, easily in HOF range) should be omitted, on the basis of their long but only very good careers. Hall of Famers should be the best of the best: the undisputed stars on their time. Scott Rolen has never been the best at anything. Traditionally, we cite awards voting like Cy Youngs, MVPs, Gold Gloves, All Star games, etc in these debates.
The second school of thought is also intellectually appealing, because it allows for some wiggle room. If you ask me who the best post-WWII pitcher of all time is, I’m probably going to answer “Pedro Martinez or Randy Johnson”, even if they are a bit lower down there in WAR, based on dominance factors. However, awards voting is a poor way of measuring this. There are plenty of examples where the awards voters were just plain wrong in the player that they picked.
I like the second school of thought, though I want to find a way to debate it better. So, I propose three new statistics, which I will do my best to calculate some time in the next week. These statistics are xCy, xMVP and xAllStar. They represent as follow:
xCy: The top 5 pitchers in each league every season as measured by WAR.
xMVP: The top 10 hitters in each league every season as measured by WAR.
xAllStar: The best player at a given position in each league each season as measured by WAR.
So, for example Mike Mussina’s career:
- 1992 – xCy 3rd
- 1994 – xCy 3rd
- 1995 – xCy 3rd
- 2000 – xCy 3rd
- 2001 – xCy 1st
Want to argue that Mike Mussina never won a Cy Young Award? Well, he should have. And he should have finished 3rd on four separate occasions. Mussina was never so lucky, in part because he played much of his career with the Baltimore Orioles.
For Derek Jeter:
- 1998 – xMVP 2nd
- 1999 – xMVP 1st
- 2005 – xMVP 5th
- 2006 – xMVP 5th
- 2009 – xMVP 5th
Derek Jeter should have won the MVP award in 1999, and xMVP gives him credit for that. In reality, he finished 6th in voting that season.
How about Mr. Pedro?
- 1995 – xCy 8th
- 1997 – xCy 1st
- 1998 – xCy 3rd
- 1999 – xCy 1st
- 2000 – xCy 1st
- 2001 – xCy 6th
- 2002 – xCy 5th
- 2003 – xCy 2nd
- 2004 – xCy 5th
- 2005 – xCy 4th
Pedro was actually pretty well represented by voters, winning all of 1997, 1999, and 2000 and coming in 2nd in 1998 and 3rd in 2003.
You can also take these finishes and make them into one score, where 10 points is assigned for 1st place and 1 point for 10th place. For reference, Pedro would score 69 while Mussina would score 38.
These statistic aren’t meant to be a substitute for measuring longevity and dominance, but instead to substitute for actual awards voting when debating a player’s case. Hopefully I’ll assemble all the data together (my database skills aren’t all that advanced) sometime next week and be able to put out some actual rankings. Who got robbed the most from Cy Young Voters? Who got the most undeserved recognition? What does the average HOFer’s expected record look like?