Shins (BJOL member Shinsplint) and I were talking about how there are a lot more borderline candidates now for the HOF. I don’t like quoting myself, but I’m going to do it anyway. My response to shins was:

“Plus with better conditioning and expansion, both in number of games per season and number of teams, there are just more players getting higher career totals. I’ve never done it, but I bet if you charted the number of players having 2000-career games, it would skyrocket just after 1969.”

(I remember years ago, BJames suggested that if you want to know how good an old-time player was, look at career total of games played. Only good players play a long time.)

So, I decided to count and categorize players who played 2000 games. I looked up the players with 2000+ games played and sorted them by the decade of their first appearance. Without further ado…

1870s 1 (Cap Anson, of course)

1880s 4

1890s 12 (expansion to 2 leagues)

1900s 8

1910s 15

1920s 11

1930s 7

1940s 8

I’m not sure what caused the drop in the 1900s; I’d guess there was a “sorting out” with the expansion to 16 teams. The 1930s and 1940s were obviously impacted by the war. With 16 teams playing 154 games, it looks like one could assume that somewhere around 12-15 players a decade would get to 2000 games. I hope these upcoming numbers shock you as much as it did me.

1950s 21

Wow! adding 8 games to the schedule and 4 (1961 & 1962) to 8 (1969) teams, almost doubled the expectation of 2000-game careers.

And quoting Backman-Turner Overdrive: B-B-B-B-B-B-Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

1960s 35

1970s 39

1980s 39

1990s 26

Doubling the number of teams TRIPLED the number of 2000-game careers. I’d say that constitutes skyrocketing.

Just in case it’s not obvious: the lower number in the 1990s is also about to bloom. There are 6 guys who are active who have 1850+ games, so they may well shoot over the line in 2011. There are an additional 6 players with 1750+ games, so they’re only 2 years away, altho some of these 12 guys are getting long in the tooth and might not make it to 2000. But even behind them, there are 21 players with 1500, tho a couple of them started playing in the 2000s.

Between 1870s and 1940s ball, there were 66 guys who reached 2000 games. Now it only takes 2 decades to surpass that number. I think this is one of the many, and one of the main, reasons why we’re struggling with who and who does not belong in the Hall. There are just too many candidates with similar career numbers.

I am not dead set against increasing the number of GOR recipients from 2 to 3, tho probably no earlier than the 2000 election. I’m just not convinced that expansion hasn’t increased the number of middling stars. Here’s a another chart showing the effect. I looked at BJames’ Win Shares book and counted how many players reached certain thresholds each decade. The columns are: Decade, Number Of Teams, and how many reached 300, 250, 200, 150 and 100 Win Shares, and total # that reached 100:

1890s 136 2 4 10 25 041 082

1900s 160 1 4 15 33 049 102

1910s 176 4 3 07 29 062 107

1920s 160 2 1 08 30 064 105

1930s 160 3 4 11 28 061 107

1940s 160 0 3 08 22 048 081

1950s 160 1 3 11 26 053 094

1960s 198 3 2 17 27 067 116

1970s 246 1 3 25 36 104 169

1980s 260 0 4 14 31 113 162

1990s 278 1 4 19 37 092 152

2000s 300 2 3 15 43 116 179

You’ll notice that the number of superstars (250+ Win Shares) doesn’t change. It’s the number of middling stars (150-249 WS), the D Grade players that shoots up when there is expansion (the 1900s, and 1960s on)

1890s 35

1900s 48

1910s 36

1920s 38

1930s 39

1940s 30 (the war had an obvious impact)

1950s 37

1960s 44

1970s 61

1980s 45

1990s 56

2000s 58

I’m not really sure why the numbers are so low in the 1980s, but if I had to guess, it’s a lack of pitchers. Only 3 of the Top 50 in WS for that decade were pitchers. Pitchers born between 1950 and 1960 just weren’t overly impressive.