1965 – Bob’s take on the Scooter’s missing prime and how he compares to Lou Bourdeau and Bobby Doerr

Taking my ballot out of the last seven elections, Boudreau, Doerr and Rizzuto have gotten the following GOR points (1965 so far):

59 60 61 62 63 64 65
32 61 58 34 49 58 28 Boudreau
00 05 11 02 00 01 01 Doerr
— — — 00 02 02 03 Rizzuto

I see the three as essentially interchangeable. I’m just curious what you guys are seeing that I’m not, or vice versa, what I’m seeing that you’re not. I understand some of it. I can see why Boudreau is the best of the three in some eyes. But I’m not sure how one can vote for Boudreau and no the other two. All three are so close together, or so it seems to me.

Let me put them side by side for comparison. The five columns are WAR, Win Shares, Linear Weights, HOF Monitor and HOF Standards.

59.1 277 48.1 89 34 Boudreau
47.4 281 33.7 96 41 Doerr
38.1 231 27.3 87 23 Rizzuto

Looking at these five categories, Rizzuto comes in last in all five. Doerr beats Boudreau 3 our of 5, but just barely; the other two Boudreau leads, he leads by a lot. So I do understand that a ballot, just looking at these 5 metrics, that a ballot might contain Boudreau, but no the other two.

But…..

Boudreau gets a lot of that advantage by playing in ’43, ’44 and ’45 against lesser competition. Rizzuto missed all three of those years; Doerr missed one. Let me play around with the numbers, just to show you why I think that the three are more or less equals. I’m only going to look at WAR, Win Shares and Linear Weights.

Let’s start by being “fair”. I’m going to subtract out of the three players the years ’43, ’44 and ’45, to put them on equal footing.

40.7 200 30.3 Boudreau
37.4 230 25.6 Doerr
38.1 231 27.3 Rizzuto

Just looking at this, it would be hard to put Doerr #1. If one prefers WAR, it’s pretty easy to see why Boudreau would rank above the other two; if one prefers Win Shares, it’s just as easy to see why Rizzuto would be number one (taking in the other two metrics as well).

I know some prefer looking at seven year totals, so let me do that, but not factoring the three war years.

37.8 178 29.3 Boudreau
31.4 166 23.4 Doerr
31.9 173 25.8 Rizzuto

Okay, maybe this is the crux of the difference in my ballot from everyone else. I am more of a career versus peak guy than most of the other voters. Still, to my eye, it looks close enough that if Boudreau ranks high on the ballot, the other two should at least be on it as well.

Let me add back in the war years at levels that seem reasonable to me. My thinking is that what the players did in ’41, ’42, ’46 and ’47 is a pretty good indication of what they would have done in the missing three years.

52.55 270.5 40.95 Boudreau
53.00 306.5 39.10 Doerr
51.60 307.5 40.95 Rizzuto

All three are pretty much bunched up together. I give a little more weight to WS than the other two, so you can see why I rate Rizzuto and Doerr above Boudreau, but still they are all three pretty much in a statistical clump. Boudreau is likely to get into the GOR; the other two would be struggling to stay on the ballot if I weren’t voting for them. I do understand that some of it has to do with peak. Boudreau did have a better peak, but if one chose to look at 8 years instead of 7, Boudreau would fall behind the other two (discounting the war years). Just comparing Boudreau to Rizzuto, Lou’s only real advantage is that he got to play the three years against lesser competition.

One last thing: is it unreasonable to speculate that if Rizzuto had played those three years, he’d’ve played 400 games and batted .280? That seems conservative to me, but doing only that his HOF Monitor would go up to 125. Of course, some of that is “soft” points from being a shortstop on lots of World Series teams. But take those points away from him, and he’s right back in that cluster with Boudreau and Doerr.

My confusion with the GOR voting is not that I think Rizzuto is better than Boudreau (I’m leaving Doerr out of the discussion on this post). It’s that I see very little difference between them and don’t understand why there is a disparity in the love given. If someone ranks Boudreau above Rizzuto, I see no problem with that. He in fact may be better. I’m just saying if Boudreau is (let’s say) 4th on your ballot, why isn’t Rizzuto 5th or 6th on your ballot, instead of being entirely left off?

A few things I’m not following:

1. I freely admit I don’t understand WAR, so I tend to be dismissive of it. Let me give an example of my confusion. Subtract out the three war years from Boudreau and he has 50.7 WAR to Rizzuto’s 38.1. Yet if you subtract out those three years from oWAR and dWAR, Boudreau has 31.7 oWAR and 16.7 DWAR (a total of 48.4) and Rizzuto has 25.5 oWAR and 22.9 dWAR (also a total of 48.4). Yet somehow Boudreau has 12.6 more WAR. WAR confuses the heck out of me.

2. I don’t understand giving Boudreau extra credit for ’48. Just for comparison’s sake, Boudreau had 34 Win Shares in ’48; Rizzuto had 35 in ’50. Both years won them MVPs. I do think Boudreau’s season was a bit better, but not enough to warrant Boudreau on the ballot and not Rizzuto. I freely admit I am not a “peak” guy. The best way for me to explain my thinking is take two students. Student A gets these grades on 6 tests: 90, 90, 90, 90, 90 and 90, for a 90 average. Student B gets these grades: 88, 88, 88, 88, 88 and 100, for a 90 average. Student B is better because he has a higher peak? That makes no sense to me. And some people want to double count the highest grade, which makes even less sense to me. Student A would still have a 90 average, but Student B would go up to 91.4.

3. I might give Boudreau some extra credit for being a manager. But then I’m not really sure he was a very good manager. His winning percentage is mediocre at best, coming in at .487. His three really good years as a manager, ’48 to ’50, he had Muddy Ruel, Mel Harder and Bill McKecknie as his coaches. I have to admit, I sometimes wonder how much of a manager Boudreau really was those three years. Without those three guys, he posted a .460 winning percentage. I also wonder if Boudreau was a good manager those three years because of himself or because of his coaches or because he had himself, Gordon, Doby, Feller, Lemon and for 2 years Paige on his roster. Somehow with all that talent (and coaches) he only won one pennant.

3. Part of the reason that Boudreau ranks so well in Bill’s Abstract is that he includes the war years. Boudreau still might rank ahead of Rizzuto without that benefit, but it would be even closer than 12th to 16th.

4. Shins, I’m not saying Boudreau should be taken down a notch. After all, I do think he is GOR worthy. And if one likes peak more than career, Boudreau would rank above Rizzuto. As I said before, if someone has Boudreau ranked 4th, why isn’t Rizzuto 5th or 6th?

5. Here’s one that has me puzzled. I’ll even use WAR instead of Win Shares. Both Boudreau and Rizzuto were born in the second half of 1917, so they are the same age. Here are they WAR by age, Boudreau listed first:

20 0.0 —
21 0.9 —
22 5.5 —
23 4.1 4.1
24 4.0 5.2

Cleveland had an old crappy shortstop in 1938, so Boudreau got a shot at age 21. The Yankees didn’t have their shortstop break down until 1940, so Rizzuto got his shot at age 23 (and remember, Rizzuto was the MVP of his minor league in 1940 – he was probably MLB-ready then). Granted they are only 24 years old, but is there really any difference between the two? But fortunes change……

25 7.4 —
26 7.5 —
27 3.5 —

Not that Boudreau shouldn’t be given some credit for what he did from ’43 to ’45, but 17.4 WAR better? Rizzuto didn’t get to play at all, and Boudreau got to play against Pete Gray.

28 3.9 1.6
Don’t you have to assume that Rizzuto just took a year to get back into playing shape? Both Gordon and DiMaggio had years that look like this (to varying degrees) in ’46. Rizzuto is just getting back to where he was and Boudreau takes off.

29 7.2 3.8
30 10.2 1.3

Rizzuto and Boudreau are extremely close. It’s these two years that would set Boudreau ahead.

31 2.9 2.8 (Boudreau’s last decent year)
32 0.8 6.6
33 1.3 3.4
34 -.1 5.1
35 — 3.7 (Rizzuto’s last decent season)
36 — -.1
37 — 0.7
38 — -.1
Is the WAR difference between Boudreau and Rizzuto a measurement of skill or rather of opportunity? I see it as more a matter of opportunity.

I am NOT saying that Boudreau is a bum and Rizzuto is Honus Wagner Junior. I’m not even really saying that Rizzuto is better than Boudreau. All I’m saying is if Boudreau is on one’s ballot, why isn’t Rizzuto?

 

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