Let’s take a look at the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot. By now, everyone who has studied baseball sabermetrics has heard of WAR (Wins Above Replacement) which is a value used to evaluate and compare players after their seasons have been completed. WAR is controversial, but if you were sold on Bill James’ Win Shares method, you would be sold on WAR. For now, it’s as good as it gets, although as I’ve written before, my standard for WAR is different for relief pitchers. Also, many baseball fans of today just look at WAR totals by season or career and label a players as sucking or being good, without noticing things like Ted Williams’ missing time for World War II and Korea, leading the league in categories, or post-season performances.
WAR’s defensive system is very debatable, as all defensive metrics are. Finally, my major issue with all sabermetrics is that it’s easy to lose the forest in the trees; WAR, OPS+, and ERA+ and valuable tools that neutralize players based on ballpark and era, but in doing so, the raw numbers- what actually happened- is rejected (Sandy Koufax’s run). All of that being said, I like WAR as a guide for determining if a player belongs in The Bubble of Suck or if the player was good (and for how long).
Here are the WAR career totals for the current 2012 Hall of Fame class. As you can see, an argument could be made for the top 15 players (I would bump closer Lee Smith’s WAR’s standards up to surpass Tim Salmon). Most stat heads online would make fervent arguments for the Top 10 (or in this case Top 9, since stat heads don’t like Bernie Williams because he was a Yankees superstar.) [Sorry, but it's true.] There’s no denying that the Top 20 contains players that at the very least belong in the Hall of Very Good.
Take a look at the chart, it’s sorted by WAR career value, formulate your opinion, and then check out how I break down seasonal WAR for the Top 20 (a little exercise I do break things down by season). In other posts I may analyze the players using other stats, awards, and make the case for them (or make the case why they should not be elected).
|Batting Stats||Pitching Stats|
Jeff Bagwell, 1B: 15 seasons: 13 were at least good. Of the 13, three were MVP-type, and 10 were All-Star Caliber. Even though I followed Bagwell’s career, I never thought he was that good when compared to the other names on this ballot. Neither did the sportswriters, as Bags was not elected on his first try. :-)
Barry Larkin, SS: 19 seasons: 13 were at least good. Of the 13, none were MVP-type, and 7 were All-Star Caliber. Like the majority of the players on the 2012 HOF ballot, I saw his entire career. He was an elite shortstop but he would lose full seasons (and WAR) due to injuries.
Larry Walker, RF : 17 seasons: 14 were at least good. Of the 14, one was MVP-type, and 3 were All-Star Caliber. This is interesting. I would have drafted Larry for his whole career, but I thought he had a better peak than that. WAR neutralized his Rockies stats. Plus I recall Larry was injured a lot. Hard to fault 14/17 production seasons, though.
Edgar Martinez, DH: 18 seasons: 13 were at least good. Of the 13, none were MVP-type [WAR subtracts his lack of defense], and 9 were All-Star Caliber. WAR shares the traditional sportswriters view that a DH is less valuable to a team than a fielder. I don’t share that view as extreme as they do, although I get the point. Looking at my breakdown, he’s better than Larkin and Walker.
Alan Trammell, SS: 20 seasons: 14 were at least good. Of the 14, one was MVP-type, and 6 were All-Star Caliber. I don’t know about you, but that breakdown seems awfully close to Larkin, pretty much a wash. If you were drafting shortstops, you couldn’t go wrong with either. And if Larkin goes in the Hall…
Rafael Palmeiro, 1B: 20 seasons: 14 were at least good. Of the 14, none were MVP-type, and 4 were All-Star Caliber. WAR neutralizes Palmeiro’s runs in high offense ballparks and eras as a first baseman. He’s super consistent, but WAR doesn’t peg him as an elite superstar. Neither did the DailySkew.
Tim Raines, LF: 23 seasons: 12 were at least good. Of the 12, none were MVP-type, and 5 were All-Star Caliber. Although sportswriters don’t really know about WAR, I still believe WAR describes perception of a player. It would explain why Raines wasn’t seen as a sure-fire Hall of Famer; he was a backup too long at the end and hung around way too long. He was valuable in his role, but WAR doesn’t rate it as a starting player, because..well, he wasn’t.
Mark McGwire, 1B: 16 seasons: 12 were at least good. Of the 12, none were MVP-type [WAR hates his defense], and 7 were All-Star Caliber. Jeff Bagwell > Mark McGwire? Eat it. Heck, Edgar Martinez > Mark McGwire.
Fred McGriff, 1B: 19 seasons: 10 were at least good. Of the 10, none were MVP-type, and 3 were All-Star Caliber. Damn.I always thought the Crime Dog stacked more than 10 good years. If only he had hit 7 more homeruns…
Bernie Williams, CF: 16 seasons: 9 were at least good [WAR kills a few seasons for his defense!]. Of the 9, none were MVP-type, and 5 were All-Star Caliber. You just had to be there to appreciate Bernie, folks.
Dale Murphy, CF: 18 seasons: 7 were at least good [WAR also kills a few seasons for his defense]. Of the 7, none were MVP-type, and 6 were All-Star Caliber. You can see- according to WAR- this ballot kinda trails off after the Top 8, and the more serious contenders have at least 12 good seasons.
Brad Radke, SP: 12 seasons: 9 were at least good. Of the 9, none were MVP-type, and 3 were All-Star Caliber. Pretty consistent Good Player. Other than that, he would never be my ace under any circumstances. Pass.
Don Mattingly, 1B: 14 seasons: 9 were at least good [he scored 1.9 WAR in strike-shortened 1994] Of the 9, none were MVP-type, and 4 were All-Star Caliber. WAR doesn’t even give him a 5 year super peak, and downgrades his real life MVP season, but the fact that Donnie Baseball had 9 good seasons is cool.
Jack Morris, SP: 18 seasons: 10 were at least good. Of the 10, none were MVP-type, and one was All-Star Caliber. Man…that’s no ace. That seems like an innings eater.
Lee Smith, RP: 18 seasons: 12 were at least good [using 1 WAR for relief pitchers]. Of the 12, none were MVP-type, and one was All-Star Caliber [Using 4 WAR for relief pitchers]. For comparison purposes, Trevor Hoffman has 12/18 good seasons, 0 MVP seasons, and 2 All-Star Seasons. (And yes, Mariano Rivera kills them.)
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- 2009 Hall of Fame Ballot Candidates
- Hall of Fame Ballot Survey
- Barry Larkin Hall of Fame? The Case For and Against
- WAR Games: How Good Were My Favorite MLB Players?
- Jeff Bagwell Hall of Fame? The Case For and Against
- Damian’s 2007 Daily Skew Hall of Fame Ballot
- 2012 Hall of Fame Shutout: Analyzing Who Really Belongs
- Frank Thomas Retires, Hall of Fame Waiting
- Andre Dawson Hall of Fame: My 2010 HOF Picks Opinion
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- Yankees Hitters WAR 1994-2011; Mets Hitters WAR 1985-2000