The board takes on Bob’s Johnny Mize Keltner

May 11, 2017

Tigerlilly

Who’s Better – Hank Greenberg vs Johnny Mize

Earlier today, I was surfing the website Terry set up to honor Bob and came across a Keltner List Bob had done of Johnny Mize. In his discussion, Bob noted that it was a close call as who was the better player Mize or Hank Greenberg. Well, Bob’s right, it is a close call as to which of these two was the better player. I thought I’d take a close look at the two and see what the BJOL readers have to say about it.

Before I start, below is a link to Bob’s Keltner List for Mize

http://boards.billjamesonline.com/sh…or-Johnny-Mize

Let’s start by seeing how these two look in the encyclopedia.

Hank Greenberg 1930, 1933-41, 45-47, Ages 19-36, DET 1930-46, PIT 1947
1394 G 6098 PA 5193 AB 1046 RS 1628 H 379 2B 71 3B 331 HR 1274 RBI 58/26 SB/CS 852/844 BB/K .313/.412/.605 158 OPS+ 3142 TB 66 GDP 16 HBP 35 SH

Johnny Mize 1936-42, 46-53 Ages 23-40, STL 1936-41, NYG 42-49, NYY 49-53
1884 G 7370 PA 6443 AB 1118 RS 2011 H 367 2B 83 3B 359 HR 1337 RBI 28 SB 856/524 BB/K .312/.397/.562 158 OPS+ 3621 TB 99 GDP 52 HBP 20 SH

Now a look at their careers on a season by season basis using Win Shares.

AgeHGJM
19 00 —
20 — —
21 — —
22 14 —
23 31 26
24 34 34
25 03 28
26 33 33
27 34 33
28 24 26
29 31 32
30 02 — (MS for both)
31 MS MS
32 MS MS
33 MS 22
34 16 32 (MS for 1/2 season for HG)
35 31 30
36 14 12
37 — 12
38 — 11
39 — 04
40 — 03

Tot 267 338
162 31.03 29.06

Not much to choose from in their prime is there? Determining each man’s Raw WS Value (car WS + Top 3 Sea + Top 5 Cons + WS/162) results in the following totals – 121.93 for Mize and 117.52 for Greenberg. I’m not going to do a year by year study under WAR, but I will note their JAWS scores. Mize has 70.8 career WAR and a WAR7 of 48.8 good for a JAWS of 59.9 which is 8th all time among 1B. Greenberg’s career WAR is 57.5, his WAR7 is 47.7 so his JAWS is 52.6 (16th all time among first sackers).

One thing I like to look at is how often players reach some arbitrary OPS+ each year they’re a regular. For Mize & Greenberg I chose 150.

Greenberg 158/ 172,171,170,169,162,156,156
Mize —– 158/ 178,177,176, 173, 162, 161, 160, 156, 156

Greenberg had only 9 seasons in which he qualified for a batting title, and Mize ten, Greenberg’s 7 seasons and Mize’s 10 seasons with an OPS+ of 150 or more is pretty darn impressive.

Let’s see how each player does in relation to his peers;

Greenberg
Black Ink 46 (31)
Gray Ink 171 (62)
HOF Monitor 188 (53)
HOF Standards 46 (111)

The numbers in parentheses are the man’s ranking in that category. Neither Gold Gloves nor Silver Sluggers existed at the time. Greenberg played in 5 All Star Games in his career competing against the top 2 first basemen (Gehrig & Foxx) of all time. Greenberg won 2 MVP’s – one as a 1B for the pennant winning Tigers in ’35 and the other as a LF for another pennant winning Tigers squad in 1940. Overall, he has a MVP Award Share total of 3.69, the 19th best total in baseball history. He received MVP votes in eight seasons, including six top ten finishes. Greenberg was selected to The Sporting News post-season Major League All Star team twice – once as a first baseman in 1935 and once as an outfielder in 1940.

Based on WAR, Greenberg would have been an AL All Star three times (1937 & 1945 as a 1B and 1940 as an OF). Also, per WAR, Greenberg was one of the top 10 players in MLB five times with another two seasons in MLB top 20. His high finish was third which happened three times (1937-38 and 40).

Doing the same exercise using WS also results in 3 AL All Star berths (1935, 38 & 40). He was one of the best players in the majors four times (on a fifth occasion he made the top 20) with high finish of second place in 1938.

Mize
Black Ink 50 (26)
Gray Ink 202 (40)
HOF Monitor 175 (61)
HOF Standards 47 (103)

Mize played in 10 ASG. Mize never won an MVP, but he did finish second twice and ended his career with an Award Share score of 2.46 (60th). He received MVP votes in 11 seasons including 6 top 10 finishes. He was The Sporting News post-season major league All Star 1B three times (1942, 47-48).

Doing the same WAR & WS exercise for Mize results in the following;

WAR NL All Star – 7 (1937-40,42,47-48)
WAR MLB Top 10/Top 20 Player – 8 T10, 9 T20 – Hi – 3rd 1940

WS NL All Star – 8 (1936-40,42,47-48)
WS MLB Top 10/Top 20 – 7 & 9 – Hi finish – 2 (1940 & 47)

Both players performed well in the post-season.

Although Greenberg’s career with the Tigers coincided with an era of Yankee dominance, his Tigers won four AL pennants and went 2-2 in the World Series.

Greenberg’s WS stats;

23 G 85 AB 17 R 27 H 7 2B 2 3B 5 HR 22 RBI 13/19 BB/K .318/.420/.624

Mize never played in the World Series during his peak seasons with the Cards and Giants (his Cards finished 2nd three times). He did play in five World Series as a part time player with the Yanks from 1949-53 as the Yanks won five straight championships. Mize contributed to those 5 straight World Championships;;

18 G 42 AB 5 R 12 H 2 2B 0 3B 3 HR 9 RBI 5/3 BB/K .286/.362/548

Now on to the things that are harder to quantify – defense, base-running and intangibles.

Defense
My knowledge is that both of these players were considered as adequate defensive first sackers. In his career, Greenberg played 1138 games at first and another 238 games in left field. His career dWAR is -4.3 and he had no season in which he was ranked among the league top 10 in dWAR, while Bill graded him as an A- first basemen in his Win Shares book. His career fielding percentage at 1B is .991 vs a league .990.

In his career, Mize played 1667 games at first and 8 games in RF. His career dWAR is -6.5 and he also never finished among the league top 10 in this category. Bill graded him as a B at 1B. His career fielding percentage at 1B was .992 vs a league .990. Your guess is as good as mine as to which rates the edge as a defensive player.

Baserunning

Baserunning was not a major factor in either man’s game. Greenberg stole 58 bases at a 69% clip in his career (CS totals were kept for his career except for 47 in which he had 0 SB). Mize stole only 28 bags in his career, but until he moved to the Yanks in the AL we have no info on his CS totals. The AL did not keep track of GDP until the 1939 season. From ’39 until the end of hsi career, Greenberg hit into 66 DP’s in 2784 PA or 15.65/660. The NL kept GDP during all of Mize’s career and his GDP rate is a low 8.87 per 660 PA. Each man hit a fair number of triples, but since both were first class power hitters, it’s hard to know how much credit for the triples totals should go into the baserunning category.

Intangibles

From what I know both were fine gentlemen and good teammates.

These two are awfully close as players and they have quite a bit in common. Greenberg, even though he had his first cup of coffee in 1930 vs Mize’s major league debut in 1936, is only 2 years older than Mize. Both started out in the shadow of the two greatest first baseman of all time (Gehrig & Foxx) and both lost a significant portion of their prime seasons to World War II. Greenberg missed almost all of 1941, all of 1942-44 and about half of 1945 to military service. Mize missed three full seasons (1943-45). I thought I’d prorate each man’s pre and post war seasons to figure out career totals with their war service.

First, Greenberg. No one missed more time to military service during World War II than Greenberg. Reviewing the Tiger game logs at Baseball Reference, Greenberg missed 658 games from 1941 through 45. Below are his pro-rated numbers as I see it;

Greenberg Career Totals without military service

2000 G 8725 PA 7380 AB 1519 R 2288 H 513 2B 93 3B 503 HR 1797 RBI 1269/1206 BB/K .310/.411/.609 158 OPS+ 4496 TB

Greenberg ends his career in 1947 with 390 WS and 79.4 WAR

Mize missed three full seasons or 462 games.

Mize Career Totals without military service

2299 G 9163 PA 8001 AB 1414 R 2493 H 450 2B 102 3B 458 HR 1677 RBI .312/.397/.565 160 OPS+

Mize would’ve retired after 1953 with 426 WS 90.4 WAR

Giving each man credit for their war years, both are somewhere in the next group of first basemen below Gehrig and Foxx (and now Pujols).

Greenberg retired the minute his game slipped a notch at age 36 while Mize hung around as a platoon/bench player through age 40. I wanted to see what Mize’s numbers would look like if he hadn’t hung around (and picked up all those World Series winners checks).

Mize through 1949 – 1522 G 6424 PA .319/.405/.577 164 OPS+ with a WS/162 of 32.78 & a WAR/162 of 7.15

As a reminder, here’s Greenberg’s career numbers

1394 G 6098 PA .313/.412/.605 158 OPS+ with a WS/162 of 31.03 and a WAR/162 of 6.68.

Greenberg made the Hall of Fame through the BBWAA in 1956, while Mize had to wait until 1981 when a Veteran’s committee finally saw fit to select him. I can see why Greenberg made the HOF ahead of Mize. He played in the more offensive league and in the best hitter’s park, thus putting up bigger counting numbers (a 58 HR season, a 184 RBI season, 168 RBI, etc). He won 2 MVP’s and his team won four pennants. He was more famous and the bigger star and all that time he lost to military service and his Jewish heritage probably also worked in his favor. That said, there’s very little of separation between these two. If I had to choose though, I’d rate Mize a hair ahead of Greenberg. I think he was the slightly better hitter and the slightly better player at his peak.

What do you think?

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Marisfan61

Nice job!
I wouldn’t have thought that Mize stacks up so well against Greenberg, maybe even being better.

I’d say Greenberg was better because he had a higher batting average (.313 vs. .312).

Just kidding.

Indeed they’re extremely close as hitters. To me, it’s splitting hairs to say on that basis which is better. I have a couple of quibbles with what you say, the main one being that I don’t think it’s meaningful in such a situation to say that one guy is “a hair” better — because such a degree of supposed difference based on what we’re able to know is completely dwarfed (pardon the political incorrect word; honestly I’m not sure why the word has become improper) by whatever differences there may be in the things we can’t know very well, particularly fielding and baserunning. It’s an “order of magnitude” issue; I just don’t think it’s meaningful to say that such a minuscule difference (if any) in offense determines anything when there are those other things that we just can’t assess very well. Unless and until we get a lot better on those, I’d have to say this is too close for us to call. If we wanted to insist on having an answer, I think we’d get a more reliable answer by looking at contemporaneous comments about them and doing our best to assess those.

Also I’m not sure why you say that Greenberg’s being Jewish helped him to be the bigger star. (That was probably riskier than my using the word “dwarf.”)
I think we could just as easily say that being Jewish got in the way of his being regarded as a star.

For what it’s worth, I’ve assumed that Greenberg was better/greater, for several reasons that I realize aren’t necessarily telling.

— The 58 HR season. I’m big on big-big seasons. (Surprise.)
— I think of Mize mostly as a part-time player and pinch hitter late in his career. I know that isn’t fair.
— This other one also probably isn’t that fair; most people here would say it’s totally unfair: Greenberg got into the Hall of Fame much sooner, and he was always a Hall of Famer since I started paying attention, while Mize wasn’t until much later. I tended to think that this means something, even if I had no idea what. In this case, while it’s never like I was comparing the two guys, I guess subliminally I was figuring that Mize either wasn’t that good of an all-around player or that his offense was more 1-dimensional, notwithstanding his very good overall offensive numbers. (I know that this was what I assumed about Ralph Kiner when he didn’t make the HOF for so long, and I did ever after, as the explanation of why it took so long.)
— I give a lot of weight to Greenberg’s 2 MVP wins, and I’d guess the HOF voters did too. Mize did great in MVP voting too, but to me 2nd’s and 3rd’s don’t count nearly as much as 1st, and back then, few if any of the voters had it in their minds who ever finished 2nd or 3rd.

BTW, Greenberg’s 1934 World Series, despite the terrific numbers, seems actually to have been considered poor in some quarters. I remember that around 1960, one of the major magazines, probably SPORT, had a thing about it, maybe even calling him the “goat” of the series, saying that while his numbers were good, he failed in key situations. I don’t mean that I agree, just saying. (From a ‘modern’ perspective, it sure doesn’t sound right, does it….)

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Tigerlilly

Oh, no – I didn’t say Greenberg was a bigger star because he was Jewish. I said he was the bigger star period (for the reasons I mentioned – the bigger numbers, the MVPs and so forth), and that was why the BBWAA voted him into the Hall long before Mize. I probably shouldn’t have even mentioned anything about his being Jewish. As you know, at that time, being Jewish was an obstacle that made things more difficult. However, in Greenberg’s case part of his fame was that he was the great Jewish ballplayer. I think that on balance that may have aided him with the HOF voters only because of the circumstances of his military service. My reasoning is that Greenberg’s counting stats are lower than most Hall of Famers and in his case the voters would’ve also been aware of why that was so – he lost more of his playing career to the war than anybody else (well, except for Feller) and 1) this was well known at the time (that he and Feller lost more time than any other stars), and 2) I think more voters than not may have given him credit for this especially since the most dangerous of those enemies we fought was also responsible for the Holocaust. In any event, it’s just speculation on my part and doesn’t change the basis of his Hall of Fame case.

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David32

I initially thought that Mize would have been a better fielder, just because he earned the nickname “Big Cat” because of his smooth fielding. (Before Andres Galarraga came along and shared the sobriquet.) But the stats for both are pretty equal.

Mize got stuck in the minors (behind the Cards’ Ripper Collins) when he was 18, and stayed there for five years, batting .337, .326, .358, .352, and .317. And despite being a power hitter, in the 12 seasons in which he had at least 400 plate appearances he averaged fewer than 40 strikeouts. (Including being the only player to hit 50 homers and strike out less than 50 times.)
Mize was the baseball coach at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia, after his playing career was over, and he came and spoke to my high school team on a couple of different occasions.

I think that choosing between Hank Greenberg and Johnny Mize is a perfect example of one of Bear Bryant’s “paper bag” choices. Put ’em both in a paper bag, shake it up, and pour one out. I’ll take either the one who falls out or the one still left in the bag and be happy.

My favorite Hank Greenberg story (though I suspect it’s apocryphal): When Greenberg joined the army, he was at the induction station with all the other recruits. While they were all sitting around in one of the army’s notorious “hurry up and wait” sessions, an anti-Semitic redneck from Alabama decided he’d show everyone how “tough” he was. So he stood up, balled up his fists, glared around, and asked: “Anybody here named Goldstein or Goldberg or anything like that?”
Hank stood up slowly and answered, “My name’s Greenberg. Is that close enough?”
The redneck looked at Hank, who was about three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, and shook his head: “Nah, I said Goldberg. You don’t qualify.”

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Steve161

A tossup on numbers, Greenberg on fame–for whatever that’s worth, which ain’t much but might be more than nothing.

***

Good comparison, and a great essay Tigerlily. The two are indeed very very close. What stands out the most to me is how shocking it was that it took so long for Mize to get into the Hall of Fame. I mean, Greenberg has the flashier seasons, and maybe folks weren’t paying a lot of attention to park and league context back then, but it’s not like Mize’s stats weren’t impressive …not at all!

If I had to pick one I guess I’d go with the Big Cat.

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Doncoffin

I went into this thinking Greenberg, but came out thinking Mize. Their career rate stats are reasonably close (BA/OBA/SA/OPS) with Greenberg having about a 3-4% edge in OBA and a 7% edge in SA (and about 6% in OPS):

Hank: .313/.412/.605/1017
John: .312/.397/.562/957

But if we ended Mize’s career age 36, Greenberg’s edge shrinks considerably (Mize is .319/.404/.577/981 through age 36)…an edge to Greenberg, but smaller, and we’d probably need to start looking at things like fielding, and intangibles, to separate them. Fielding doesn’t help much…through age 36, neither one seems to have been a gifted 1B–they look very similar, so we’re left with intangibles.

After age 36, Greenberg, of course, did not play. But Mize did, albeit at a much lower level of productivity: .264/.340/.464/.804 (OPS+ always above 100). So the question is whether additional 850 PA of diminished (but above MLB average) performance pushes Mize past Greenberg. I voted for Mize, but it’s an incredibly close race…I’d be comfortable with option 3: Who was better,
Greenberg or Mize–or were they essentially tied–I’ pick essentially tied.

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Ventboys

My opinion is closest to Marisfan’s. They are too close to call as players; the gray area is larger than any tangible difference between them. Greenberg would have a higher Test score because of the MVPs and higher fame and legacy grades, and I think that’s represented in the their respective Hall of Fame election results. Greenberg wasn’t a better player, but he was part of some big stories, many of which he starred in. Mize was part of some good stories and one great one (Yankees 5-straight), but his Oscar would have been as a supporting actor, while Greenberg would have been up for leading actor trophies in 1934-35 and 1940 and a “best cameo” in 1945.

I think Mize could have been Greenberg, placed in the same place at the same time … and he was unlucky within his own timeline, too. When he should have been a candidate, he (1) was separated from his peak by 20 years and two wars, and (2) had imprinted the public’s brain with visions of a part-time slugger who didn’t hit for a good batting average – a memory that misrepresented who he was at his best.

Mize might have been the unluckiest player ever in this narrow sense – the player whose Hall of Fame path most under-represented his actual Hall of Fame candidate viability. If there was such a thing as an HOF quotient – fundamentally it would be “how many years should it take his doppleganger to get in the Hall of Fame?” – Mize’s number would have been in the 8-15 range. It took him what … 28 years? Who – other than some of the old-timers who predated the Hall of Fame – had to (undeservedly) wait longer?

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Bearbyz

In 1940 Hank Greenberg a first baseman for years moved to left field to get Rudy York into the lineup. He won the MVP that year and the Tigers won the pennant. Greenberg had the best OPS on the team and York was second. That for me gives Greenberg the edge over Mize.

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Marisfan61

Didn’t know that! Or actually, probably forgot. I think I came across it years ago.

That’s enough for me to cast the vote for him. I was leaning to him, mainly because of the 2 MVP’s (plus my long-time “assumption”), but thinking that “by a hair” isn’t enough to pick one. I still think the answer is mostly “it depends what you mean by better” and “we can’t tell anyway.” I’d been planning on not voting till the end and then just voting for whoever was behind to try to make it a tie. But if I have to pick one, it’s Greenberg.

Although just by the same margin as their batting averages (wink).

Some more about Win Shares and 1B’s:

In the New Historical Abstract, Bill has Mize ahead. He’s #6, Greenberg is #8. I’m a little surprised that in the bit about Mize, Bill didn’t say anything about it having taken so long (which he almost certainly thought was unjustified) to get into the HOF.
The guy between them is Killebrew.

But check this out: Look who he had ahead of them.

Gehrig, Foxx — OK.
But then — #3: McGwire. Even granting that this was in 2000, before we knew that much about PED’s (some say it was known way before that, but it wasn’t, and even if you think it was, for sure it wasn’t that much discussed and wasn’t viewed as prominently as after that) …..even granting that this was in 2000, I’m very surprised Bill would have seen fit to put him anywhere near that high. It doesn’t even seem justified by the Win Share numbers. Looking at those (and even not taking PED’s into account), I’d put him at about 10 or 11.

And #4 and #5: Eddie Murray, Jeff Bagwell.
On at least one of those guys I’m sure I’m being influenced by certain issues as well as nostalgia (i.e. in favor of the older guys), but also by rationale. I don’t see them that high.

Bill’s order:
1. Gehrig
2. Foxx
3. McGwire
4. Bagwell
5. Murray
6. Mize
7. Killebrew
8. Greenberg
9. McCovey
10. Thomas

Of course it’s possible that Bill would put them differently now.

(then: Anson, Mattingly, Perez, Clark, Allen, Keith Hernandez)

It’s very hard to see why Bill has McCovey below Killebrew. McCovey is ahead on each and every one of the Win Share categories, yet he’s 2 spots behind.

I think my order would be more like:

1. Gehrig
2. Foxx
3. Greenberg & Mize
5. McCovey
6. Killebrew
7. Murray
8. Bagwell
9. Thomas
10. Mattingly
(McGwire not in the top 10; granted, with hindsight)

***

Mike137

Interesting. I had not realized that there were so many similarities between Greenberg and Mize. But there are also important differences. If you want to understand why Greenberg made the HoF so much more easily than Mize, you must ignore irrelevancies like WAR, Win Shares, and OPS+. By the standards of the time, Greenberg was a much better player than Mize.

Mize never drove in more than 138 runs in a season. Greenberg had 184, 168, 150, 147, and 139. That was in a span of 7 years, in one of which he hardly played. Mize average 115 RBI per 162 games played. Greenberg averaged 148. Cutting off Mize’s career afetr age 36 would hardly make a difference. Greenberg averaged 122 runs per 162 games, Mize averaged 96. A slugger’s job was to produce runs, and Greenberg was far better at that than Mize.

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Gfletch

I wonder how seriously we should take Bill’s rankings in specific cases. I think he has evolving methods for judging player careers and has even written that sometimes he will fiddle with them just…well, just because. Didn’t he write that he dropped Quisenberry down a few notches just because he didn’t want to be seen as having a home town bias? I think he also wrote at some point (maybe about middle infielders or catchers) that after the top 25 or so, the next 75 on his list were so close by his methodology that they were virtually indistinguishable…so, what the hell?

Moving along now…I remember Bill once wrote something about how “Everybody’s got a list.” Not meaning to offend anybody, but that is not only true, but tedious. Every time someone wants to measure player productivity in some way, here comes another list. My reaction, probably most reactions, are “whatever.” I think the ranking of players, especially historically, is mostly just an excuse or an opportunity to write about them. What’s left after you take out the ‘mostly’ is an opportunity to discuss some close comparisons.

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Marisfan61

Stealing a sentence from that baseball card book (“The Great American Card Flipping….”), here’s a real pip for you.

I looked into a few under-the-surface things about Greenberg’s career, including whether it makes any sense to say he was sort of the “goat” of the ’34 World Series despite his good numbers (I think arguably it does….BTW what’s weirder is that he hit SIXTH in the lineup for most of that series; in fact he mostly hit 6th for that season.)

I also noticed that in what I called his “big big year” — 58 HR’s and all that — he was only 3rd for MVP (he won his 2 MVP’s when he hit far fewer HR’s), which I think actually makes sense if for no other reason than that his team only finished 4th, although the team of the guy who won (Foxx) was only 2nd.

But that’s not the thing.
Here’s the thing.

Here are the top 7 for MVP that year, leaving out #5 for now:

1. Foxx
2. Dickey
3. Greenberg
4. Ruffing (21-7, 3.31 ERA, 138 ERA+)

6. DiMaggio
7. Cronin

The #5 guy for MVP, ahead of DiMaggio and Cronin, both of whom had super years, was:

BOBO NEWSOM: 20-16, 5.08 ERA (below league average, 98 ERA+)
In case you’re thinking, maybe he had some super games that got a lot of press, he was tied for last in the league in shutouts, with 0.
Yes, he had a very good year on Win Shares, but just 2nd on his team — the 7th place team.

It’s one of the oddest little MVP finishes I’ve seen. I’m sure there were reasons for it, but I sure can’t tell what they were.
Oh — I got it — he kept the Browns from finishing last although I’d give more of that credit to Harlond Clift.

P.S. I looked into it a little (looking through articles in NY Times).
I guess the main thing is, this thing that’s sort of the obvious thing: He won 20 with a bad team.
And also, it was noted that unusually few pitchers won 20 games that year. Ruffing was the only other one in the A.L.
Plus, he was a “story” throughout the year, always the focus of the games where he pitched, including the bad ones of which there were many, and including that he did very well against the Yanks (who ran away with the pennant), and he did have several outstanding games although no shutouts. It was a mildly big story when his manager said he’d try having Newsom pitch both games of a doubleheader. He didn’t do well in the second game, but…..it was a story.

He led the league in innings and complete games, by a lot, and tied for the lead in starts. Because of the huge number of innings, he shows well on “WAR” (7th among pitchers, although behind a guy I never heard of) despite the mediocre E.R.A. It was a noteworthy season, and it’s not insane to have wanted to give it recognition, although I think we’d all agree that 5th for MVP is pushing it.

BTW I learned that Bobo wasn’t his main nickname at the time, at least to the NY Times.
They called him Buck Newsom.
Looks like they never called him Bobo till 3 years later.

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Ventboys

I think of Newsome as the Rick Reuschel of his time – and if I was choosing sides I’d choose him over a good dozen Hall of Fame pitchers. Maybe more. Newsome, Reuschel … Wes Ferrell … none of them are really strong Hall of Fame candidates by traditional methods, but they were better players than many who were.

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Doncoffin

That sounds plausible, but…the run environments were remarkably different in the AL and the NL during the period in which their careers overlapped in the 1930s (1936-1941). On average, AL teams scored 5.2 RPG during that period, while NL teams scored 4.45 RPG–16% more.

Greenberg ratio of RBI to PA was 0.222 between 1936 and 1941; for Mize, 0.182. But it you adjust that for the run environment, Mize’s 0.182 RBI per PA is (essentially) equivalent to 0.212. (I’m going to ignore RS, because, other than HRs, neither guy drove himself in, but Greenberg homered in 6% of his PA, while Mize homered in 4.4% of his.) I’m not sure I want to build any sort of case on the difference between those ratios of RBIs to PA, adjusted for run environment…

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Bearbyz

I looked at every at bat for the series yesterday and will do a write up tomorrow. He did make some clutch outs, but also got a couple of key hits. I noticed he batted 6th after the first couple of games. I thought maybe he got hurt. Interesting.

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Jwilt

Why was Newsom traded so much? Was it because he was eccentric, which seems to be the case looking at his online bios? Is eccentric code for he drank a lot? He was quite inconsistent, with full season ERA+s everywhere from 168 to 77. Maybe teams traded for him expecting the MVP candidate and often got an average or below-average pitcher? He was traded twice in the midst of seasons where he eventually got MVP votes, and at least once during a season where he made the All Star team.

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Ventboys

Other than Detroit, Bobo didn’t pitch for any good teams (correct me if I’m wrong). I noticed that he didn’t stick until he was on his third team and one of those teams WAS good (1932 Cubs won the pennant), so your theory (drinking) could be it. I don’t know enough to speculate, though … and once a player is traded he’s like a baseball slut, freely passed around like the guitar player’s ex-girlfriend at Burning Man. Bobo was “damaged goods” before he established himself, and his first five years were spent in the nether regions of the league.

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Fireball Wenz

This is more of an impression rather than anything else – was the Amercian League the better league during that period? In terms of MVP voting, etc., it sure seems that the AL had the bigger names during their career periods.

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Gfletch

I don’t know…you may think a league is better if some of the players have fantastic raw statistics. But that could simply indicate an uncompetitive situation.

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Mike137

Yes, the runs scored per game were very different in the two leagues, but my impression has always been that the AL had a high proportion of the top hitters. Maybe the NL had better pitching? I don’t know that they is any way to tell.

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Bearbyz

Marisfan said write-ups talk about how Greenberg was the goat of the 1934 World Series. Even though his statistics are good, batting average .321, 1 home run, 7 RBIs, 4 runs scored OPS of .978 he didn’t hit in the clutch when it was needed. I decided to go thru Greenberg’s World Series at bat by at bat to determine if this was true.

Game 1.

Pitching for the Cardinals was Dizzy Dean with Greenberg batting 4th. Greenberg spent a lot of the season batting 6th, but batted clean up at the end of September.
In the bottom of the first the score was 0-0 and Gehringer was on first ahead of him with two outs. Greenberg grounded out. While it would be nice to jump ahead that wasn’t a very crucial at bat.
The Cardinals scored 2 runs in the second and a run in the third to take a 3-0 lead. In the top of the third Greenberg made an error that led directly to the run scoring. When Greenberg came up in the third the Tigers already had scored a run and had men on second and third with two outs. A very critical at bat as a single could tie the game. Greenberg stuck out. The Tigers chance to win went down by 7 percent. Needless to say the 3rd inning wasn’t good for Greenberg.
By the time Greenberg batted in the 6th the Tigers were down 8-1. With one out and no one on base he singled and later scored to make the score 8-2. In the bottom of the 8th he homered to make it 8-3. I remember a story that Dean laid it in there to see how far Hank could hit it.

Game 2.

Pitching for the Cardinals was Bill Hallahan. Greenberg again batted 4th.
In the bottom of the first man on first two outs Greenberg grounded out.
The Cardinals led 2-0 when Greenberg came up in the third with two on and two outs. He struck out. Greenberg must have been hating the third inning.
The Tigers scored a run to make it 2-1 in the fourth. Greenberg came up in the fifth two out and a man on first. He walked to put the tying run in scoring position, but Goslin flew out.
In seventh still down 2-1, again 2 outs and a man on first Greenberg struck out.
In the bottom of the ninth the bottom of the Tiger lineup put together a run to tie the game extra innings.
Bill Walker came in to pitch for the Cardinals in the bottom of the 10th. With a man on first and no outs Greenberg flew out. This out cost the Tigers a 8 percent chance of winning and the Tigers didn’t score.
In the 12th with one out and a man on first Greenberg walked putting the winning run on second. Goslin singled to win the game. So without a hit Greenberg made a contribution to the winning rally.

Game 3

Pitching for the Cardinals was Paul Dean. Greenberg again batted 4th. The 3rd game was in St. Louis.
In the first Greenberg batted with a man on first and two outs. He fouled out.
In the third, the Tigers came to bat already down 2-0. With one out they had men on second and third when Greenberg came to bat. He stuck out and the Tigers didn’t scored that inning. After the game Greenberg petitioned that they skip the third inning for the rest of the Series.
The score was the same in the fifth when Greenberg led off with a walk and went to third on a single with one out. However, Owen and Fox both stuck out. In the bottom of the 5th the Cardinals scored two more runs.
Greenberg led off the seventh by grounding out.
With two outs in the ninth, Greenberg tripled in the Tigers only run in a 4-1 loss. His only hit and RBI again came too little and too late. He did get a walk to lead off the 5th to try to help put the Tigers back in the game.

Game 4

Tex Carleton started for the Cardinals. Greenberg batted 6th, maybe because it was less likely he would bat in the third.
The score was 0 – 0 when Greenberg batted with out in the second. He singled, but was stranded on first. The Cardinals scored in the bottom of the second to take a 1-0 lead.
Detroit rallied in the third after the first two men were retired. Four straight men got on base in front of Greenberg. The Tigers led 2-1 with men on first and third. Greenberg singled to left field to increase the lead to 3-1, increasing the Tigers chance to win by 9 percent, a clutch hit.
By the end of the fourth the score was tied 4-4. In the fifth Greenberg came to bat with one out and one on. He flew out.
The score was still tied in the seventh when Greenberg came to bat with men on first and third. Pitching now for the Cardinals was Billy Walker. Greenberg doubled for the lead 5-4. Now this was a really clutch hit. A lead taking RBI in the late innings. I consider 7 thru 9 the late innings. It improved the Tigers chance of winning by 17 percent.
In the 8th with the same score and one out, Billy Rogell hit a two run single in front of Greenberg to make the score 7-4 and put men on first and third. Greenberg followed with a double to make the score 8-4.
The Tigers won 10-4 to tie the series. This was a big day for Greenberg statistically and in the clutch.

Game 5

Dizzy Dean started his second game of the series and Greenberg again batted 6th. The game was played in St. Louis.
Greenberg with one out in the top of the second in a scoreless game and walked. Pete Fox one batter later knocked in Greenberg for the 1-0 lead.
In the Fourth, Greenberg came up with men on first and third and no one out. A chance to put the game away or at least take a two run lead. Greenberg stuck out and the Tigers didn’t score that inning leaving the score at 1-0.
Charlie Gehringer led off the 6th with a home run to make the score 2-0. Greenberg came up with one out and a man on third. He hit a sacrifice fly to bring home another insurance run and give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
The Cardinals scored a run in the bottom of the seventh to make it 3-1. With two outs in the 8th and no one on Greenberg fouled out.
Even though Greenberg didn’t have a great day he was directly involved with two of the three Tiger runs. He walked and scored the lead run and later knocked in a second insurance run on a Sacrifice fly. Not a bad day for not getting a hit. The Tigers were now up 3 games to 2, with the last two games at home. Greenberg was a big help in winning both the last two games. He and the Tigers must have been feeling pretty good heading back to Detroit.

Game 6

Paul Dean made his second start for the Cardinals. Greenberg batted 6th.
The Cardinals jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first. Greenberg struck out with one out in the second.
The Tigers tied the game in the top of third. Greenberg fouled out with two out and nobody on in the fourth.
The Cardinals scored two in the top of the fifth to make the score 3-1. In the bottom of the sixth the Tigers rallied. They had scored one run and had runners on first and third with two outs when Greenberg batted. Greenberg singled to left field to tie the game, another clutch hit.
However, the Cardinals pitcher Paul Dean drove in Leo Durocher who doubled to deep center field to give the Cardinals back the lead. This was a big letdown, as Durocher was never much of a hitter and Dean had 3 RBIs in 87 at bats for the season.
Detroit tried to rally in the bottom of the 8th. With one out Gehringer and Goslin singled putting them on first and third. Billy Rogell flew to center, apparently not deep enough to score Gehringer. Greenberg came up with the game in hand. He fouled out to first base, a big opportunity missed.
The Tigers went down 1, 2, 3 in the ninth.

Game 7

Dizzy Dean started his third game. Greenberg batted sixth.
In the bottom of the second with a man on third one out Greenberg struck out.
With one out in the top of the third Dizzy Dean doubled. Pepper Martin singled on a ground ball to first. I don’t know if this was a hit that Greenberg could have prevented or not. From what I remember reading Greenberg was not a graceful or great fielder. I don’t remember reading about this particular play. After a Jack Rothrock walk, Frankie Frisch hit a three run double. Dizzy Dean the Cardinal pitcher doubled and score the winning run, a day after his brother Paul drove in the winning run. The Cardinals scored seven runs in the inning, for the most part putting the game away.
Greenberg led off the bottom of the 5th with a single. With one out Pete Fox doubled him to third. However, the pitcher Tommy Bridges came up next and struck out. Why Cochrane didn’t pinch hit for Bridges I don’t know. Greenberg ended up stranded on third.
It was 11-0 when Greenberg struck out in the seventh and still 11-0 when he struck out with men on first and second in the ninth.
In the series Greenberg had both good and bad clutch moments. However, overall I say he had a good series with the bat. I pulled all my data from Baseball Reference.

***

He (Bobo Newsom) liked to drink, he had little or no respect for authority (although Clark Griffith liked him a lot, it was said Bobo could always find a spot on the Nats because Griffith enjoyed their pinochle games together), he was very much a “character”, maybe more genuinely so than even Ol’ Diz (Newsom once showed up for spring training in a Caddy set up with flashing lights that spelled out B*O*B*O and a couple of blondes in the back seat). It was said by some that he did not regard the game with sufficient seriousness.

He must have had a ton of raw talent though. And he could totally bear down when he wanted to. One time he pitched a complete game even though a line drive had fractured his kneecap in the third. (He lost the game.)

***

Tigerlily

I’d say Greenberg has nothing to hang his head about regarding the ’34 series.

DaveNJnews

Amazing that Greenberg and Mize ended up with Hall of Fame careers despite both missing 3 full seasons each for World War II. Greenberg also missed most of 1941 and half of 1945; I am not sure about Mize and the seasons preceding and following his 3 years out. Both would be a lot higher up the all-time home run list with that time in the service of their country added back in.

***

OwenH

I’m especially impressed that both players started raking immediately upon returning to the majors after three-plus years in the service — almost as if they hadn’t been gone at all. I know other men did this too (Williams, DiMaggio), but it’s still impressive.

***

DaveNJnews

Agreed. They would have had to stay in shape in the service, really good shape, and that would have helped some, but I would have thought it would have been a tough transition.

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Bob’s Keltner List (the original one) – Ron Santo, Kirk Gibson, Roger Maris, Gil McDougald, and Deacon White

I’m guessing that since everyone here is a BJames fan that you are familiar with his Keltner List. I won’t go into the what and wherefors of the making of the list. If you are unfamiliar (or have forgotten), you can find the explanation in BJames “Politics of Glory”, starting on page 274.

Since we have been discussing Kirk Gibson’s HOF merits, and that digressed into talking about Maris and Santo, I thought I’d use the Keltner List on these 3 guys. Santo is someone I’d assume almost all of us thinks is HOF-worthy. I’d also assume that most of us think Maris and Gibson are marginal candidates. I thought I’d add Gil McDougald for two reasons: first, to honor him at this time of his passing and because I think that very few of us think he is HOF worthy and will make a good counterpoint to Santo. I think it’ll be interesting to see if Maris and Gibson are closer to Santo and HOF worthiness or McDougald, a fine player, but not really HOF material. I am also going to add Deacon White as a lark. He’s the most worthy 19th century candidate in my opinion, and I’d like to see where he stands.

One warning/explanation. The Keltner list is entirely SUBJECTIVE. I will try as hard as I can to be OBJECTIVE with my comments and assessments. So here goes…

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in bseball?

As Bill says, that’s a very tough standard. Obviously, none of the 4 most recent players gets a “yes’ answer. White, I’m not so sure. If you are one of the best offensive players AND the best defensive catcher in a season or two, surely someone would think you’re the best player. I’ve done a lot of comtemporary reading and have never seen anybody actually say he was the best, so I’ll give him a “qualified no”.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Another tough standard. What with Banks, Billy Williams and Jenkins, Santo was occasionaly number one, but I’d have to say no. Gibson is about the same as Santo, in that he competes with Trammell, Whitaker and Morris. He too was the best once or twice, but, like Santo, I’ll say no. Maris obviously never was (except maybe in Kansas City, which doesn’t count). Mantle was always better, plus you had Ford and Howard, plus Brock, Flood and Gibson (the other one) to compete against. McDougald is equally a “no”. White often was the best on his team.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Santo, yes, often. Gibson, in 1988, yes, maybe 1984, otherwise, no. Maris, yes, in 1960 and 1961, maybe in 1962 and 1958. McDougald is a tough one to rate; he switched positions so much, but probably yes in 1955, 1956 and 1957, no to all others. White was the premier catcher in every season from 1870-1879, except 1878 when he was the top first baseman, plus 1884 when he might have been the best third baseman.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

This is where Santo gets clobbered. Other than 1969 and maybe 1967, the answer is a loud no. Gibson, other than 1984 and 1988 gets a no. Maris had 4 Yankee yesses (he didn’t contribute much in ’63) and 2 Cardinal yesses. McDougald was in a pennant race all 10 years he played. White was a significant factor in the races of 1873-1877 plus a couple of years in Detroit for a total of 7.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

This is one of the biggest reasons none of the four are in; none of them played as regulars after turning 34. Except…White; he played 122 games as a 42-year old. Granted he didn’t play very well that year for a historically bad team in Buffalo, but still, he was a good, productive player at 40.

6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the HOF?

Really tough standard. Ignoring players that are active or on the BBWAA ballot, I’d probably like to amend this question to “Is he the very best player the Veterans Committee has to choose from?” Depending on one’s views, I think “yes” arguments can be made for both Santo and White. The other three, no.

7. Are most of the players who have comparable career statistics in the HOF?

Santo, yes. Gibson, Maris and McDougald, no. Honestly, the answer for White is also “no”. There are 2 huge “buts” tho. First, he played in an era, like the Dirty Ball Era, where power numbers were depressed. Second, it’s hard to compile big numbers with the schedule of his time. His earliest years were played in the Amateur Era, when few stats were collected and aren’t included in his totals. The schedule was a lot shorter then. The first time that his team even played 100 games was 1884, when he was 36 years old. So, I guess I’m saying the answer for White is “no, but..”

8. Do the player’s numbers meet HOF standards?

Just like the previous question: Santo, yes; Gibson, Maris, McDougald, no; White, no, but..

9. Is there evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his stats?

This is a hard one in my opinion for Santo. I’d say no, he wasn’t better, but he also wasn’t worse, his numbers accurately describe Santo. Gibson is also tough. I’m trying to be objective, but I don’t see it; glk obviously does. And it’s just as difficult about Maris. I “see” it; but most others don’t. How about we call it a wash and give them both “maybes”. McDougald is an unequivical yes, he was much better than his stats. He was so good that Stengel could play him anywhere, but sort of platooned him, which lowered his career numbers, makes me say yes. White also gets a yes because of playing time, as explained in question 7.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the HOF but not in?

Another tough standard with a similar answer to number 8. Santo is an arguable yes, what with Nettles and Darrell Evans in the mix; Gibson, Maris and McDougald are all getting a no answer. White is, like Santo, an arguable yes. White competes with Joe Torre and Ted Simmons. All three are offensive catchers with poor defensive reps. White was actually a very good defensive catcher, but with his move off the dish, he became an immobile third basemen, and that’s where his poor defense rep comes from (and that rep is deserved).

11. How many MVP-type seasons did the player have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Santo had 4 seasons of 30 or more Win Shares, which Bill calls MVP-type seasons. Altho he won no awards, he came in 4th in 1967, 6th in 1969, 8th in 1964 and 9th in 1963. He did have the most WS in the NL in 1967. Gibson had only 1 MVP-caliber season, 1988, the year he did in fact win the MVP; he did finish 7th in 1984. Maris had two MVP-caliber seasons in 1960 and 1961, and he did in fact won both those years.
McDougald never had an MVP-type season. As you know, there were no MVP Awards in White’s time, so I can only hazzard a guess. He probably would have won in 1877 and might have won in 1875. It’s possible that he might have finished in the top 5 in a couple of other years, but that’s just speculation.

12. How many all-star type seasons did the player have? How many all-star games did he play in? did most of the other players who played in this many go into the HOF?

Santo was named to and played in 9 All-Star games; he had 8 seasons of 20+ WS. Gibson was never selected for an All-Star game, but had 5 seasons of 20+ WS. Maris was named to 4 and played in I’m not sure how many games (the reference book I’m using doesn’t show if they played in both games or not). He was selected in 4 consecutive years, 1959-1962, when they played two all-star games a year; he had 4 seasons of 20+ WS. McDougald was named 5 seasons and played in at least 5 games. Like Maris he was named to the team in 1959 and I don’t know if he played in both; he had 6 seasons of 20+ WS. White never even heard of All-Star games until he was 85-years old. And for some unknown reason, he wasn’t selected to play!

13. If this man were the best on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

On some level, I think I can honestly say yes to all five of these guys.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

I think you might say Maris had some minor impact of baseball history. Gibson had a historical moment. White was THE catcher that all other catchers were measured by until Ewing came along. Santo and McDougald, not so much. I don’t know of any rule changes that any brought about, but White might have – the game being so fluid in his time. I know of no new equipment that any came up with, but again, with White, there is some speculation (he may have been the first catcher to pad his glove). I’d say that Maris changed the game significantly, but that might be me being subjective.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character the HOF, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

I can’t think of anything negative about any of these guys. And White was, after all, nicknamed Deacon.
———-
In summary, White does extremely well on the Keltner List. Santo does well also. Gibson and Maris are a few notches below Santo, and I think Maris does better than Gibson. McDouglad does better than I had expected him to, but still well below Maris and Gibson. On a scale of 1 to 10, with McDougald being the 1 and White being the 10, I think I’d put Santo at 8, Maris at 5 and Gibson at 4.

Bob’s Keltner List for Graders

We spend a lot of time on this site discussing the merits of a player’s HOF worthiness. We often have a disconnect because we value different things differently. With that in mind, I have come up with a list of ten questions grading not players but us. That way when discussing specific players, we might have a better understanding of where we’re disagreeing.

I’m going to give the ten questions and then spend time explaining what I mean for each. This will likely take more than one post to accomplish, altho most are pretty self-evident. In no order of importance:
Q1 – Who is the HOF for?
Q2 – Should the HOF be inclusive or exclusive?
Q3 – How important is fame?
Q4 – How important is fielding?
Q5 – How important are championships and/or post-season accomplishments?
Q6 – How important are milestone numbers?
Q7 – Peak versus Career?
Q8 – Raw versus Analytical stats?
Q9 – Should each era have a similar number of honorees?
Q10 – Should each position have a similar number of honorees?

Let me preface this with a few points. First, there is no “right” answer to any question; many have multiple answers that are legitimate. Second, these questions aren’t necessarily binary for the grader; they aren’t “yes/no” questions per se. I can think that both Sandy Koufax and Don Sutton are worthy, which can be at odds with the peak versus career question. Third, these questions aren’t really geared towards the uber-greats; it’s to help clarify the discussion for the 300 or so players who we debate.

I’ll start with the first two questions in this post, mainly because they aren’t as much about who should go in.

Q1 – Who is the HOF for?

How one answers this question can have large impact on who we think should go in. Is the Hall for the “best” players and contributors? Is it for the fans? Even this “fan” thing can be broken down into the fans who actually go to Cooperstown and the fans who debate the issue without ever going to the museum? Is it primarily for the living HOFers? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “what’s the point of enshrining dead people? They are not alive to enjoy it”. Is it for the “history” of the game? Terry would want me to mention that ultimately the HOF is for the owners of the museum and the citizens of Cooperstown.

For me, it’s all of the above, of course, but it’s mostly two-fold. As one might guess, I tend to think “historical”, but I also think about the future. A question I always ask myself is when thinking about who should go in is to ask “To a fan in 2100, is this a player they need to know about?” It’s why I say “yes” for Ross Barnes but “no” to, oh I don’t know, let’s say Kirk Gibson.

Q2 – Should the Hall be inclusive or exclusive?

Quite obviously, most of us tend to think that 300 or so is around the right answer. We can agree or disagree as to whether the Hall currently has the “right” 300. I think most of us would agree on 200 or so. The problem of course is our debate. There are any number of players who are going to go into the Hall whether one is exclusive. There really isn’t much doubt that, as we’ve been discussing, Mussina, Schilling and Smoltz are all going to eventually be in the Hall. The debate by an exclusivist is not Will (or Would) but Should. The inclusivist may tell us that Gil McDougald is a good candidate, but we all pretty much know that he ain’t never going in. While this question doesn’t come up that often in our discussions, it does come up occasionally.

The older I get, the more exclusive I’m becoming. It follows from my trying to look to 2100. If we add another 300 by 2100 (we’ve elected 300 in 75 years), the Gallery is going to be awfully crowded with plaques to read. When I took my dad to Cooperstown back in 2011, he spent hours reading every single plaque. I wonder if that would even be possible in 2100, to view every single one if there are 600 to read. If I had my druthers, I would set up a VetCom to pick the 10-12 19th century stars that have been left out and set up another VetCom to pick the 5-10 1900 to 1972 stars that need to be inducted, and then (for the most part) shut them off. I’d still have a VetCom meet every ten years to see if someone new, from research, emerges. The VetCom that meets to pick thru the 1972-1992 era still needs to do some work, but eventually that era too should be closed. There really aren’t a whole lot of players from 1890 to 1970 that have been grossly ignored if one is exclusive.

Before I continue on, let me re-phrase a few things.

First, when I say “players”, I’m also referring to managers and owners and umpires and Negro Leaguers and general mangers and other variations of “contributors”.

Second, I’m not debating specific players. The first two questions I was able to avoid using specific people as examples. I’m not sure in explaining the next 8 questions that I’ll be able to avoid using individual players to get my points across.

Third, the whole HOF concept is complex. Discussing the HOF worthiness of active players is vastly different from discussing recently active players, which is different from discussing players on the BBWAA ballot, which is different from discussing players who are now under VetCom jurisdiction. Discussing Mike Trout is different than discussing Albert Pujols, which is different than discussing Chipper Jones, which is different from Alan Trammell, which is different than Dave Parker.

Fourth, I think we all have HOF tiers. But the Hall is not about ranking. It’s a binary discussion: should “Player Under Discussion” be in the Hall? It’s either a yes or no answer. These Keltner List For Graders questions are meant to help us understand why someone thinks yes or no. They aren’t necessarily meant to help one decide whether Joe Blow is worthy or not (altho they might help us in some small way).

Fifth, the first paragraph under each question is my attempt to define the question. The second paragraph is nominally how I answer it.

Q3 – How important is fame?

This question is probably one of the trickier aspects of HOF worthiness. There are so many ways to define fame. There’s time-and-place fame. This is where the “fame is fleeting” quote comes from. I have little doubt that Bobby Wallace was famous in his own time, but he is probably one of the most obscure HOFer today. There is fame for “accomplishments”, which is different from fame for (let’s call it) “lore”, altho they can often overlap. Some of the more questionable HOF choices are in because of fame. Tommy McCarthy, Rabbit Maranville, Tinkers-Evers-Chance are “lore” enshrinees; Jack Chesbro and Hack Wilson are “accomplishment” enshrinees. And of course, there is infamy too. Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Dick Allen, and steroid users aren’t in for this reason.

Personally, I don’t think I put much weight to fame. Only in comparison to a lot of the posters here do I value fame. I kind of think of it this way. I rate a player’s HOF worthiness much like the HOF Monitor. He gets to 100 points, and I’ll endorse him. Fame is probably on a scale of 10 to -100. Most players get zero points; very few even get 1 point. Joe Jackson and his ilk are at -100. There are very few players that get over my fictitious 100 points because of fame. Jim Hunter is one that comes most readily to mind. If I think about it for a minute or two, I’m sure I’d come up with a handful more (Pre-posting edit: Gil Hodges is the only other player that I would give Fame Points to that would crack the 100 Point threshold because of Fame Points.) There are two player that I give more than 10 Fame points to that put them over 100 points: Jackie Robinson and Roger Maris. Robinson is probably not over 100 on his raw stats alone. Just looking at his bbr comp list, he doesn’t scream HOFer. Of course, doing any simplistic analysis of his numbers, and he’d be pretty darn close to 100 points (and probably over). What makes him a shoo-in HOFer is his transcendent fame. Same for Maris, as far as I’m concerned. His raw numbers don’t make him worthy. It’s his fame that does.

Q4 – How important is fielding?

This is another tough one, basically because fielding prowess is so difficult to quantify. Fame importance is hard to define; fielding importance is next to impossible. We’re all over the place when it comes to fielding. Some look at Gold Gloves; some poo-poo them. Lord knows there are a boatload of advanced metrics out there. Some like one over another; some more or less dismiss them all. Of all ways of measuring worthiness, fielding is more “feel” than just about anything else. I’ll let someone else attempt tackling how to define this question. It’s an important one, but I’m not sure I can do the explanation justice.

Honestly, I don’t have any clear methodology for a player’s fielding. I tend to look at a bunch of metrics to form a consensus. If still confused, I tend to lean on Bill’s fielding letter grades that he has in his Win Shares book. And I don’t think that a great fielding first baseman is anywhere near on par with a great fielding shortstop, second baseman or centerfielder. That Keith Hernandez is the greatest fielding first baseman is nice to know, but I put it on the same level as Jeff Kent (or whoever it is) having the most homers of second basemen or that Jack Morris had more wins than anybody else in the ’80s. That, for me, doesn’t make them HOFers. And I have NO IDEA how to adequately quantify catchers’ defense. Ultimately, I punt; I rely heavily on a player’s reputation.

Q5 – How important are championships and/or post-season accomplishments?

This is the easiest of the questions to understand what is meant. I can think of only one marginal HOFer whose post-season play likely put him over the top, and that would be Lefty Gomez. If/when Jack Morris get in, his Game 7 in ’91 might be a deciding factor. But generally speaking, I don’t think post-season play makes or breaks a candidacy. As far as championships go, I don’t think that there is much of a halo effect. It hasn’t helped (so far) Concepcion, Campaneris or Wills. Well, let me change that: I don’t think there is much of a halo effect for position players; pitchers, whose worthiness is often based on their win/loss record, get “credit” for playing on very good teams. Well, let me change that again: in recentyears, championships aren’t a defining characteristic of who gets into the Hall. Players who played prior to WWII were often elected by the halo effect, Earle Combs, most of the Frischian selections, 1890s Orioles, and, again, pitchers. Post-WWII, the only position player who seems “enhanced” by championships is Rizzuto. Correct me if I’m wrong. The thing is, of course, great players do tend to play for championship-caliber teams. There are exceptions, like Banks and Kiner. Generally speaking, championships and post-season accomplishments have very little impact on HOF worthiness. Obviously, the question is should they? The purpose of this Keltner List is to understand if someone does put emphasis on it.

Personally, I can’t think of any serious HOF candidate that gets pushed over my line because of championships and/or post-season accomplishments. Lefty Gomez is probably close to my yes/no line. If he’s at 99, his post-season record might push him to 100; but his peak is good enough, along with his fame, that he’s probably already over 100 in my book. There is one multiple championships team with no HOFers, the late 1880s St. Louis Browns; technically, Tommy McCarthy was a Brown for a few years, but his HOF cred isn’t from those years; and Charlie Comiskey was elected as an owner, tho he might have been elected eventually as a manager if he had never bought the White Sox. Bob Caruthers is a popular HOF candidate among 19th century aficionados, but he’s not particularly one of mine. I don’t see enough difference between Caruthers, Silver King and Dave Foutz to put my weight behind him. Plus, I’m not that convinced that the American Association warrants many HOFers, and I have a few I rate ahead of Caruthers.

Q6 – How important are milestone numbers?

3000 hits, 500 non-steroid enhanced home runs, 300 wins. Another easy question to understand what I’m talking about. Not sure how much explaining I need to do. Some people think they are significantly important; some think they are just numbers.

Me, I think they are significant. I can’t think of a single player who has reached these numbers that I wouldn’t vote for. That’s not to say that I can’t envision someone reaching them that I wouldn’t vote for. A pitcher who went 300-300, maybe I wouldn’t vote for, but then again anybody who lasts long enough to get 600 decisions almost had to have a number of really good years. If Dave Kingman had or Adam Dunn reachs 500, I wouldn’t vote for them. A player with 3000 hits and no other redeeming qualifications I could probably pass on, but then again, I think it would be awfully hard for someone with no extra value playing long enough to get 3000 hits.

*****

These two questions are the easiest to understand and explain. The next four are much, much tougher.

*****

The next two questions are the “meat” of our discussions. These are where we tend to have the biggest disconnects.

Q7 – Peak versus Career?

This is pretty straight forward to explain. How much weight do we give to each? Career is pretty self-explanatory. Peak is where we struggle, because there is no consensus on what peak means. While I don’t think very many think one year is enough to debate as peak (otherwise, Norm Cash would be in the Hall), we often see peak defined as 3-, 5- and 7-years. Sometimes it’s consecutive; sometimes it’s not. What often happens is we use whatever looks best to bolster our points. We don’t use 7 years for Koufax. for example, if we’re advocating for him; we don’t use consecutive seasons if we’re advocating for Fisk. Frankly, I don’t see anything special about 3 or 5 or 7 seasons; why not 4, 6 or 8? And sometimes we see weighted peak, where someone will multiple the best season by a higher factor than the second best season, which has a higher factor than the third best, and so on. I’m not sure that there is a good, universal way to assess peak value, which is why we often struggle with our HOF debates. I’ve seen multiple attempts at combining career and peak. JAWS7 is a good example of the attempt. Personally, I pretty much ignore JAWS7, other than to give me a rough idea of who is and who isn’t a great player. My buddy Charles Faber has his methodology of only counting a player’s 10 best seasons. Like JAWS7, it’s an okay measurement for a general understanding of where players rank, but it leaves out a lot of good, HOF caliber seasons. He has Ralph Kiner a little ahead of Lou Brock because he ignores whatever contributions Brock made in his 11th thru 19th best seasons; he has Billy Terry a little ahead of Fred McGriff because he doesn’t count the 5 additional seasons that McGriff had that add to his HOF-worthiness. I think we all value peak and career; we just weigh them somewhat differently. Only if we know how another grader weighs them, only then can we further the discussion intelligently.

For me, I generally give more weight to career over peak, but I’m extremely inconsistent in its application. It’s probably likely that the application seems totally illogical and haphazard to others. I tend to prefer volume over rate stats; I prefer a great player who plays for 20 years over an uber-great who plays for 15. But I don’t doubt that I could find examples that negate what I just said, especially among pitchers. Sandy Koufax I rate a lot higher than his career stats warrant; I’d rank him higher than dozens of pitchers who have more WAR or Win Shares or better raw stats. Just remember when we’re discussing a specific player and you start talking about his peak, we may have a disconnect because I have no idea what peak really means.

Q8 – Raw versus Analytical stats?

(I’ll get back to this one either tonight or tomorrow. Life is intruding.)

*****

It’s taken me a while to get back to this topic, mainly because I knew that this one is a tough one….

Q8 – Raw versus Analytical Stats?

This is THE question I think we most get hung up on in our discussions. Not the raw stats so much, but how to interpret the analytical ones. For guys on this site, raw stats aren’t really the issue; we already know how to adjust what they mean. A lot of BBWAA writers still are fixated on the raw stats, but that too is changing albeit slowly. No, the discussion here bogs down on what the analytical stats mean.

Analysis of baseball stats has, in many ways, made it more difficult to “know” who is HOF worthy or not. It’s complicated and messy. And the Great Stats have added to the confusion. Do we prefer WAR (and which version) or Win Shares or Linear Weights or, in a few cases, our own analysis? Shins likes Humphrey’s fielding stats; I think Humphrey’s are garbage. The problem is of course that all Great Metrics have flaws. Or perceived flaws. It’s according to our own individual beliefs about what constitutes value. I prefer stats that measure what actually happen; WAR, for example, is more theoretical, in that it means what should have happened. My biggest gripe about Win Shares (other than a lack of Loss Shares) is that I think Bill vastly undervalues fielding. And there are dozens of little intricacies that any and all Great Stats have that aren’t based on my definition of value. I value walks slightly less than the Great Stats; I prefer Run Average Plus over ERA+; I have a different definition of Replacement Level, that will lead me to an alternate conclusion of worthiness. We all have them, dozens (maybe hundreds) of slightly different interpretations of value magnitudes. Shins and I are in basic agreement about the value of Rick Reuschel, but our slightly different value systems make us have totally different final yes/no conclusions about his HOF worthiness.

I think the two biggest disconnects I have with analytical stat analysis are
1. we think we found the definitive answer. Great Stats are not that accurate. Bill warns us that Win Shares is an approximation. I’m paraphrasing him (I couldn’t find the exact quote), but a player with 30 Win Shares is close to being the right answer, but it could be 29 or 31, maybe once in a while it could be 28 or 32, and even on rare occasions it could be 27 or 33. He acknowledges that Darrell Evans 364 Win Shares is not an exact figure, but that it’s probably in the 340-385 range. Same thing with WAR; having a decimal point makes it seem definitive. It’s not. It too has a range, but I’ve never seen it explained that way.
2. their use as lampposts. If they are used as illumination, go ahead and cite them. If they are used as support for your advocacy…..I’d rather you didn’t.

And finally, another disconnect I have with interpreting analytical stats is thinking “equivalent” is the same thing as “is”. One can make adjustments willy-nilly and figure out that Early Wynn’s stats say he should have gone 274-239, that his stats really are “equivalent” to that win/loss record. I know I do stuff like this all the time. Still, I know that it’s not THAT accurate. It’s more along the lines of COULD have gone than WOULD have gone. “All things being equal” is impossible to measure, basically because not all things are equal. We can postulate that Rick Reuschel could have been 240-160 under a different set of circumstances; I don’t deny that. But there are too many what-ifs to think he would have been 240-160. If he’d’ve been a Cincinnati Red, he’d be long forgotten, because Sparky Anderson would in all probability have blown out his arm; no one, at least I’ve never seen it, is speculating on what Don Gullett’s career might have looked like if he hadn’t been a Red, mainly because too much information is lacking. If he’d’ve been a Baltimore Oriole, he might never of cracked that rotation. We have ample data to make a pretty good guess on what Reuschel might have done in a purely perfect and average opportunity, because he lasted so long in the environment he was actually in. Still, WOULD have and even COULD have is not exactly the same thing as ACTUALLY DID. While I don’t think raw stats are an end point, I don’t ignore them entirely either. What a player did (with IMO reasonable adjustments) is more important than what he might have accomplished.

*****

Let me finish this up. I’m going to reverse the order, because I don’t have much to say about Q10, but quite a bit about Q9.

Q10 – Should each position have a similar number of honorees?

In a perfect world, they should. It’s not a perfect world. I doubt that very many people would argue that they should, but on occasion there will be a reference that third and catcher have fewer than the other positions. It’s not a major issue in the debate, but we see it sometimes.

Personally, I don’t factor it in much. Once in a while it sneaks in. If I could vote for only one between Graig Nettles and Dwight Evans, I might. Or Stan Hack and Bob Johnson/Wes Ferrell. Or Wally Schang and Sherry Magee. Or Charlie Bennett and Bob Caruthers. But generally, no, I don’t feel a need to even the count.

Q9 – Should each era have a similar number of enshrinees?

I don’t think I need to explain what this question means (it’s pretty self-evident), so I’ll skip directly to how I see it.

This is the question that I probably have the largest disconnect with others on this site. In many ways it is an accumulation of the other questions and how I see them. Because I study 19th century ball so much, I have a vastly different interpretation of HOF worthiness than others, and it has “warped” my opinions. I likely answer Q1 (Who is the Hall for?) from a totally odd perspective, in that I try to envision the Hall in 2100, and ask “Who should they know about?”, which leads me to contrary honorees than many others here advocate.

Generally speaking, I believe that each generation of players is equally valued. The stars of each generation should go in. I don’t have a fixed definition of “generation”, so let’s not get too precise about what it means; we all know that Jack Glasscock is not the same generation as Honus Wagner, who is not the same generation as Arky Vaughn, who is not the same generation as Ernie Banks, who is not the same generation as Ozzie Smith, who is not the same generation as Derek Jeter.

If I had my way, the HOF would elect around 20 players per decade (and just to be clear, I don’t mean specifically the 20 best players of the 1980s). There are eras when it would be slightly less, some slightly more, but somewhere in the 15-25 range. This thinking of mine often leads to disconnects with others. Without looking up specifics, it’s why I advocate for Gil Hodges, who was probably in the Top 20 of his generation, and why I don’t advocate for Will Clark, who I likely don’t have cracking his generation’s Top 25.

I could say a lot more about this question, but it’s turning more into a “it’s-all-about-me” explanation. So I’ll stop here.

Bob’s Keltner List – Wally Schang

I’m not going to do a full Keltner List for Wally Schang, because the answer to most questions is “No”. But for the questions that don’t have a simple “No” answer:

3. Was he the best at his position?
He was an okay defensive catcher who was known more for his bat. But he probably was the best all-around catcher of his era until Hartnett showed up in the mid-’20s.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Let’s see: the starting catcher on the ’13 & ’14 As; the ’18 Red Sox; the ’21, ’22 & ’23 Yankees; and the backup to Cochrane on the ’30 As. I’d say he had some impact.

5. Was he good enough that he could continue to play regularly past his prime?
From age 36 to 41 he caught 82, 75, 82, 85, 36 and 30 games, and would pinch hit 10-20 times (except that last season)

7. Are most of the players with comparable stats in the Hall?
As a catcher, his stats are pretty unique. When he retired he had more Win Shares than any other catcher. Most players from his era who have comparable Linear Weights is in the Hall.

8.Does he meet HOF standards?
No, but catchers rarely do

9. Is he the best at his position not in the Hall?
No, of course not. Not counting active or recently retired catchers, just looking at who the VetCom has to look at, he’s behind IMO Simmons, Torre and Deacon White, but about even with Freehan and Munson. He might be the best of his era not in, Schang or George Burns, I suppose.

I’m not sure I’d go overboard lobbying for Schang – there are others more deserving of my advocacy. BJames has him ranked as the 20th best catcher and that’s with a large timeline penalty. I THINK I think he’s deserving, but he’s right on the cusp – with about 50 other guys, some who are in and some who aren’t.

Bob’s Keltner List – Adrian Beltre (August 2012)

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in the game?
Tough standard, but no.

2. Was he the best player on his team?
Almost never. In ’04 he was. In ’10 he was.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position?
This is sort of the crux of the discussion of this thread, isn’t it? But the answer for most of his career has been no. While he was in the NL, Chipper Jones was the premier 3rd baseman. I doubt if very many thought he was the best during his Seattle years. It’s only been since 2010 that he’s in the running. Wright, Longoria, Beltre, Zimmerman, Arod. Beltre is the only one who has stayed healthy all three years, so maybe he is the recent best. But before the season starts, I’d say most people would rather have Wright or Longoria, but it’s close. I’ll give him a qualified yes to this question.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of races?
With the Dodgers, only 2004. Never with Seattle. Like the last question, only in the past three seasons has he been on pennant contenders. To answer the question: overall, no; recently, yes.

5. Was he good enough to play regularly past his prime?
At 33, Beltre is just now entering the age when this question becomes relevant. We won’t be able to answer this question for a few years.

6. Is he the very best player in history not in the HOF?
Another tough standard, but obviously the answer is no. Chipper, Derek Jeter, ARod, Pujols and likely a dozen or so active players are more HOF worthy. And that doesn’t count the recently retired like Bonds, Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, and again, at least another dozen or so who rank ahead of him.

7. Are most of the players who have comparable career stats in the HOF?
Of his ten best comps at BBR, none are in the Hall, tho there are a number of viable lesser candidates like Rolen, Cey, Boyer, Lynn. If he can continue post age 33 to do what he has done, his comps will change. But as he now stands, if his career were to end today, he’s probably not a HOFer. Comparing thru age 32, he has some HOF comps, 6 of 10 headed by Santo and Ripken. Beltre is having a fine career. He just needs more to be a HOFer.

8. Do the player’s numbers meet HOF standards?
Not yet, but they are starting to get close.

9. Is there evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested in his stats?
Again, this is where the discussion is centered. Some of the newer fielding metrics have him in the stratosphere. Some of the more conventional fielding metrics have him in the “very, very good” range, perhaps a A- grade, instead of A+ or A++. John Dewan, in the 2012 BJHandbook, says that since 2003 Beltre has saved 156 runs defensively, about 17 per season. Maybe he has. I do find it a little odd that a “historically great” defensive player has only 3 Gold Gloves (I know, I know, Gold Gloves aren’t exactly a great measurement, but still….). Beltre is not a great hitter, having an OPS+ of 111, merely a good hitter. The question is: does his great fielding compensate for the hitting difference between some of the guys we’ve been mentioning? Part of the problem is that prior to 2010, Beltre was having a Terry Pendleton type career, great fielder average to mediocre hitter. In the past three years he’s turned it on to get into the HOF discussion.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall but not in?
We’re discussing someone mid-career, or rather we’re still discussing someone who is in their peak, so this question is sort of moot for the moment. It’s a little hard to compare active players in their prime with finished careers. Part of the problem is that we’re anticipating more, but we just don’t know how much. I’d say that of the recently retired and about to retire players, Beltre currently ranks behind Chipper, Nettles and Rolen; and depending on tastes, Darrell Evans, Ken Boyer, Buddy Bell and Ron Cey. And Edgar Martinez if he’s considered a 3rd baseman. Hack, Groh, Leach and Williamson? The game was too different to know with any real confidence, so I’ll keep them out of it. But there are currently a number of 3rd baseman who rank ahead of Beltre.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he win any?
One MVP caliber season, 2004, when he came in second. He came in 9th in 2010 and 15th in 2011. I would assume he’ll get some voting love in ’12.

12. How many all-star-type seasons did he have? How many did he play in?
He’s played in three, ’10, ’11 and ’12. Depending on how one defines “all-star season”, 4 for sure, and maybe 4 where he might have been (but wasn’t, and probably shouldn’t have been), a couple with LA and a couple with Seattle; but I’ll say 4. And four is not a lot for a HOF type.

13. If this man were the best on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
I struggle with this question. Or rather, a lot of you guys don’t agree with my answers to this question. I am a lot harder grader on this question than a lot of you. And Beltre is going to be one. I don’t think that a team with Beltre being the best player could win the pennant. A team whose best player has an OPS+ in the 125-135 range, Beltre’s current range, is not going to win the pennant very often. Let’s take a team in the hunt, say this year’s Orioles. If they were to get Beltre over the off-season, would anybody say “Well, the Orioles sewed up the ’13 race”, like what happened when the Angels got Pujols (and Wilson) or the Tigers got Fielder? Beltre is a nice addition to a team, but not THE guy.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change to game in any way?
Not that I can think of, altho to many he is one of the poster children for not signing a “career year in his walk season” player.

15. Did he uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the HOF instructs us to consider?
Nothing leaps to mind of anything negative.

***

Beltre is in the midst of building a potential HOF resume. He hasn’t done enough yet. If he can duplicate his past three seasons, he’d likely move into the “strong consideration” area. He’s going to have to stay healthy and productive for a little while longer for a serious HOF run.

***

I spent way too much time on this, but I was curious. I wanted to know why Win Shares and WAR are so different in assessing Adrian Beltre’s career. I looked at this; I looked at that; I looked high; I looked low. In total, I probably spent 6 hours looking hither and yon for some insight.

First conclusion: there isn’t much predictability between WS and WAR. It really is like comparing apples and oranges. Two players with 50 WAR can have a wide divergence in Win Shares, and vice versa.

Second conclusion: Just as WS needs Loss Shares, WAR needs a “context” number. Unfortunately for me, I know of no such stat. After struggling to figure out one, I gave up.

Third conclusion: Myachimantis (for some reason, I always read this as “my aching mantis”) earlier said in a post that if players have comparable numbers of games played or plate appearances they should have similar WAR and WAA rankings. I looked at players who had between 8000 and 9000 PAs, and ranked them according to WAR and WAA. And while it is generally true, it’s not exactly true. I’m not positive I know why it isn’t, but it probably has something to do with pinch hitting or defensive replacement, designated hitting and defensive position, altho I couldn’t make hide nor hair of it.

End of conclusions. I had probably spent two hours by now, and I was no closer to understanding why Beltre’s WAR and WS were so far apart.

But then I had a mental breakthru. Since I had WAA, if I could figure out “decisions”, I could have a Win/Loss record. I divide Games Played by 5 to figure out Decision Shares. I figured why not try the same thing with WAA? I’ll spare you all the math, but the basic formulas are 1) Games divided by 5 gives Decisions, 2) Decisions divided by 2 plus WAA equals Wins, and 3) Decisions minus Wins equals Losses. I’ll do Mike Schmidt as an example. Schmidt played 2404 Games, for 480.8 Decisions. 480.8 divided by two plus 73.8 WAA equals 314.2 Wins. 480.8 Decision minus 314.2 Wins equals 166.6 Losses. I looked at 30-some third basemen, the guys who BJames had in his Top 25, plus a few others. I’ll share the data since I have it. The players are ranked by WAA Wins. The second column is WAA Losses. The third column is Fibonacci Points based on the WAA Wins and Losses.

329.3 249.9 268.6 Brooks Robinson
321.4 220.0 292.2 George Brett
314.2 166.6 352.9 Mike Schmidt
306.0 230.6 249.9 Paul Molitor
302.8 237.2 235.4 Graig Nettles
301.5 186.5 301.3 Wade Boggs
301.2 193.4 291.2 Chipper Jones
297.7 180.5 302.5 Eddie Mathews
293.0 244.4 208.3 Darrell Evans
273.1 207.9 220.3 Buddy Bell
261.1 187.5 225.6 Ron Santo
246.2 158.0 238.2 Scott Rolen
244.1 166.9 222.2 Edgar Martinez
242.7 174.3 209.7 Adrian Beltre
236.3 179.5 191.1 Robin Ventura
234.9 171.9 198.6 Ken Boyer
234.6 169.2 201.7 Sal Bando
233.5 181.1 183.9 Ron Cey
232.9 198.3 160.4 Tommy Leach
219.0 176.6 163.6 Bob Elliott
218.6 169.0 172.9 Stan Hack
218.3 203.5 127.8 Ed Yost
209.5 163.7 163.4 Matt Williams
204.3 183.9 127.9 Pie Traynor
198.8 146.2 167.2 Jimmy Collins
194.5 120.5 194.1 Frank Baker
193.8 141.4 164.4 Heinie Groh
139.1 080.7 146.4 John McGraw
123.7 085.1 111.9 Al Rosen
Among these guys, Beltre ranks 14th in WAA Wins and 13th in Fibonacci Points. It looks like Beltre will need 2, maybe 3, more healthy and productive seasons to crack the Top 10. Just using this measurement, it looks like this generation of 3rd basemen will need to crack 250 Fibonacci Points (okay, Molitor has only 249.9, but was he really a 3rd baseman?) to be an automatic HOFer. If one looks only at WAR, one can see why one might speculate on Beltre’s HOF chances. He’s right on the cusp.

Of course, this didn’t really help me answer my original question, the disparity between WAR and WS for Beltre. Then I had another brainstorm. Would it be possible to correlate oWAR and dWAR to Win Shares? I took 16 modern 3rd basemen and did multiple regression with oWAR and dWAR compared to WS. While the results weren’t exactly satisfying, here are the 16 guys, in order of how far predicted Ws is from actual WS. The columns are oWAR, dWAR, predicted WS, actual WS, and the difference between the latter two.

50.5 -0.5 296 363 +67 Darrell Evans
72.6 -7.8 369 414 +45 Paul Molitor
42.3 38.8 318 356 +38 Brooks Robinson
80.4 01.2 410 432 +22 George Brett
87.6 17.6 459 467 +08 Mike Schmidt
47.6 20.9 314 321 +07 Graig Nettles
89.3 05.4 449 450 +01 Eddie Mathews
43.4 23.0 301 301 -0- Buddy Bell
84.1 -1.4 420 414 -06 Chipper Jones
47.3 06.1 293 280 -13 Ron Cey
49.4 20.4 320 304 -16 Scott Rolen
78.4 12.9 418 394 -24 Wade Boggs
62.9 -9.8 330 305 -25 Edgar Martinez
62.4 08.6 353 324 -29 Ron Santo
52.0 10.5 316 279 -37 Ken Boyer
53.9 08.0 320 283 -37 Sal Bando
And where does Beltre place on this list? Last. Dead last.
41.0 21.4 290 244 -46 Adrian Beltre

I don’t have a firm conclusion, but it’s not fielding that WS undervalues Beltre. It’s everything. If it were just fielding that was the difference, it would be hard to explain why Brooks is +38 and Edgar is -25. Of the 6 guys who have +15 dWAR, 3 have more WS than predicted, 1 right on the money and 2 that have fewer WS than predicted. Of the 5 who have dWAR below 5.0, 3 have more WS than predicted, 2 have fewer. Basically, the same ratio. So I can’t say with any conviction that WS “undervalues” fielding.

I looked at 8 additional guys who have good defensive reputations, having won multiple Gold Gloves, to see if there is a bias. Here are their numbers:
25.4 09.8 216 248 +32 Tim Wallach
13.0 12.9 174 202 +28 Terry Pendleton
25.4 15.3 224 249 +25 Gary Gaetti
33.7 12.4 251 241 -10 Matt Williams
02.5 14.4 137 124 -13 Aurelio Rodriquez (the original ARod)
11.9 05.2 160 135 -25 Frank Malzone
22.4 02.1 195 166 -29 Doug Rader
29.3 06.5 226 176 -50 Eric Chavez
So, Chavez is “penalized” even more than Beltre. Anybody predict that? But looking at these 8, I don’t see any reason to believe that WS undervalues defense.

I didn’t really get an answer to my question: why is there a difference? I mean, I have an answer. WS undervalues Beltre across the board compared to WAR. I just don’t know why WS undervalues Beltre across the board. Or conversely, why WAR overvalues Beltre. It also explains why Bill ranks Darrell Evans so high, which I’ve never understood.

I can’t say I really learned anything; however, I did have one of my tenets reinforced: never look at just one Great Stat for THE answer. They only provide AN answer.

There is a step in my thought process that I left out in my long post above. After figuring out that I might be able to estimate Decisions to figure WAA Wins, and before I realized I could figure out WAA Losses (you’d think they’d go hand in hand. but for some reason they didn’t), I compiled a list of Win Shares minus WAA Wins. Here’s that list, in order of the variance. Columns ae Win Shares, WAA Wins and the difference between the two:

467 314.2 152.8 Mike Schmidt
450 297.7 152.3 Eddie Mathews
414 301.2 112.8 Chipper Jones
432 321.4 110.6 George Brett
414 306.0 108.0 Paul Molitor
301 194.5 106.5 Frank Baker
316 218.6 097.4 Stan Hack
328 232.9 095.1 Tommy Leach
394 301.5 092.5 Wade Boggs
272 193.8 078.2 Heinie Groh
274 198.8 075.2 Jimmy Collins
363 293.0 070.0 Darrell Evans
274 204.3 069.7 Pie Traynor
287 219.0 068.0 Bob Elliott
207 139.1 067.9 John McGraw
324 261.1 062.9 Ron Santo
185 123.7 061.3 Al Rosen
305 244.1 060.9 Edgar Martinez
304 246.2 057.8 Scott Rolen
267 218.3 048.7 Eddie Yost
283 234.6 048.4 Sal Bando
280 233.5 046.5 Ron Cey
279 234.9 044.1 Ken Boyer
272 236.3 035.7 Robin Ventura
241 209.5 031.5 Matt Williams
301 273.1 027.9 Buddy Bell
356 329.3 026.7 Brooks Robinson
321 302.8 018.2 Graig Nettles
244 242.7 001.3 Adrian Beltre

This was the point I was at when I realized that comparing WS and WAR was apples to oranges.

***

Just for fun, I used the 3rd baseman regression analysis formula for ARod, Jeter and Ripken.
107.7 11.9 526 467 -59 ARod
091.0 -8.3 437 400 -37 Jeter
072.8 34.5 426 427 +1 Ripken

Oh, what the heck, three more
111.9 -10.1 513 565 +52 Mickey Mantle
131.3 18.1 623 642 +19 Willie Mays
126.6 -4.9 574 643 +69 Hank Aaron

I’ll stop there. I’m not really sure it “works” for third basemen. I’m pretty darn sure it doesn’t really work for shortstops or outfielders.

***

I think I had a mathematical epiphany. Somebody, please, check my thinking. I think I’ve figured out how to translate WAR into a win/loss record. Tell me where I went wrong.

We have Wins Above Replacement, but we don’t know the number of Decisions; if we can figure out Decisions, we can figure out the corresponding Losses. We know that a replacement level player has a .320 winning percentage, or W/D=.320.

My epiphany: can’t we subtract WAA from WAR, add that to W, divide by D and get what an average person would accomplish? Isn’t the difference between WAA and WAR the difference between Replacement Level and Average? The equation becomes (W+WAR-WAA)/D=.500, right?

And since we know WAR and WAA, doesn’t this become a simple algebraic “2 equations, 2 unknowns” situation?

Or in other words, Decisions equals (WAR -WAA)/.18. Let me use a few examples.

Adrian Beltre has 59.5 WAR and 35.0 WAA. (59.5-35.0)/.18 equals 136.1111 Decisions. Let me make a chart, columns are WAR, WAA and Decisions:

59.5 35.0 136.111 Adrian Beltre
103.0 73.8 162.222 Mike Schmidt
50.4 26.2 134.444 Ron Cey
72.7 39.7 183.333 Brooks Robinson
11.7 -9.5 117.777 Aurelio Rodriguez
30.8 14.1 92.7777 Ken McMullen

Based on their career lengths, don’t the Decisions seem proportionally correct? We’re used to seeing a larger number of decision, so they may seem a little out of whack. But didn’t Brooks have a career about twice as long as McMullen’s?

And of course, now that we have Decisions, we can figure out Wins and Losses. Multiply D by .320 and add in WAR. That gives WAR Wins. Decisions minus WAR Wins equals WAR Losses. Then you can do either Winning Percentage or Fibonacci Points. This chart is WAR Wins, War Losses, Winning Percentage and Fibonacci Points:

103.055 33.055 .757 148.03 Beltre
154.911 07.311 .955 295.53 Schmidt
093.422 41.022 .695 117.32 Ron Cey
131.366 51.966 .717 173.53 Brooks Robinson
049.388 68.388 .419 001.71 Aurelio Rodriguez
060.488 32.288 .652 067.64 Ken McMullen

Am I on to something useful? It seems to work for these 6 third basemen.

 

 

 

Bob’s Keltner List – Andruw Jones

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball?

Pretty easy “No” answer here

2. Was he the best player on his team?

I suppose someone could make that argument, but I doubt the majority would. Maddux and Glavine and Smoltz and Chipper were the stars on the team.

3. Was he the best player at his position?

I don’t think he was the best centerfielder in the ’90s, not with Griffey around; but a strong argument could be made that he was for a few years after Griffey was constantly injured. He’d at the very minimum be a serious candidate for being the best centerfielder for a period of years. How many Gold Glove centerfielders average 100 runs and RBIs over a ten-year period (1998-2007)? Oops! small math error: Jones only averaged 97.4 runs over that period. So, Yes to this question.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Duh!

5. Was he a good enough player to play after his prime?

Kind of an odd question for Jones. He’s still playing, at a reduced rate. And his prime ended at age 30, which is pretty young for a supposed superstar. I think I have to pass on this question for the moment. If he stopped playing now, the answer would be of course “No”. But then again he might still be playing in 2020.

6. Is he the best player not in the Hall?

Not by a longshot. There are, what, 15-20 active players who would rate ahead of him, plus another 10-15 recently retired?

7. Are comps in the Hall?

Gold Glove winning power hitters with low batting averages haven’t done well in HOF voting. Both Dwight and Darrell Evans, Graig Nettles, Bobby Grich come to mind as players of the same skill-set. Johnny Bench is the only one who is even remotely similar who is in the Hall. Joe Gordon, maybe? Historically, these kinds of guys haven’t faired very well.

8. Do the players numbers meet HOF standards?

At the moment they are a bit short, albeit just barely. He needs another year or two adequate full-time numbers to get there.

9. Is there anything to suggest he was significantly better or worse than his stats?

Yes to both. Defense is undervalued and some linkage to PEDs.

10. Is he the best player at his position not in the HOF?

Well, no, Griffey is the obvious #1 centerfielder not in. I think he’s in a general class with Bernie Williams, Jim Edmunds, Johnny Damon, guys who are just a bit short (tho a case could be made for just about all of them)

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have?

Altho he never won one, or really came close, he could have won in ’05, leading the league in homers and RBIs for a pennant winning team. He had just one season with 30 Win Shares, ’00.

12. How many All-Star seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in?

He played in 5, and he had between 4-8 all-star type seasons, depending on how one defines it. 8 times he had 20 or more WS; 4 times he had 25 or more. However one defines it, he’s at the lower end of HOF caliber players.

13. If he were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

I’ve never really liked this question, because I never know how to answer it. I suppose the answer is “Yes” as he had more Win Shares than any other Brave in 2000 when they won their division, as usual. Kirk Gibson led his Dodgers to a pennant in ’88, but that doesn’t make him a HOFer. I think I’d like the question to be “If he were the third best player on his team, WOULD they likely win the pennant?” And I think that with Jones, I could answer that with a resounding “Yes”, as he was often the third best player and those Braves did win constantly.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history?

He’s the answer to a number of trivia questions. That sounds like a flippant remark, but it’s not meant to. Who’s the greatest defensive centerfielder of all-time by…add in the metric of your choice? Who’s the youngest player to hit multiple postseason homers? That sort of thing. He has left some footprints.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship?

Hmmm…

Jones actually did a little better than I thought he would on the Keltner List. While I don’t see him as a HOFer, he’s at least I guy I’d think about for a moment or two before I said “No”.

————–

Now, for The Test. Just like the Keltner List, I’m not sure how well it works for active players, but I’ll give it a go, as well. (Sorry, Terry, I left off your humorous F grades, since they weren’t needed with Jones.)

1. Production) This player’s career value according to WAR, Win Shares or other reasonable metric puts him among the:
A. Best 20 ever.
B. Best 50 ever.
C. Best 100 ever.
D. Best 200 ever.
E. Best 600 ever

Jones gets a E grade here. He might be among the 300 greatest ever, but he’s not really close to cracking the Top 200

2. (Position) The player’s career value is in the range of
A. The highest ever at his position.
B. The upper half of the BBWAA inductees at his position.
C. The lower half of the BBWAA inductees at his position
D. The Veteran’s Committee inductees at his position
E. The veteran’s Committee candidates at his position.

Again, a fairly easy E grade

3. (Peak Height) At the player’s established peak value, he was:
A. The best player in baseball.
B. MVP level.
C. MVP candidate level
D. All-Star level
E. All-Star reserve level.

I tend to be conservative in my judgments. I can see someone saying that he was, in the spring, often thought of maybe finally breaking thru and having that monster season, a season that never came. But at his best he was very good, so I give him a D grade

4. (Peak Length) This player played at or near his peak level for:
A. At least 12 seasons.
B. 9-11 seasons
C. 5-8 seasons
D 3-4 seasons
E. 2 seasons

Well, considering he averaged (almost) 100 runs and RBIs over 10 seasons, that warrants a B grade.

5. (Durability) This player played:
A. At least 21 seasons
B. 19-20 seasons
C. 16-18 seasons
D. 13-15 seasons
E. At least 10 seasons

Terry and I have gone around and around with this question, as to what constitutes a season, but as it now stands, IMO, Jones has played 15 seasons, so he gets a D grade.

6. (Comps) Most players with similar career value by WAR, WS or other reasonable metric:
A. Made the Hall as soon as possible, and almost by acclaimation
B. Made the Hall quickly
C. Made the Hall thru the BBWAA
D. Made the Hall thru a Veteran’s Committee
E. Are HOF candidates at all.

This one is a little tougher. Jones is either a very weak D or a very strong E. Not a lot of his strongest comps, like Nettles and the Evans boys are in, but…it’s hard to guess if they’ll eventually go in as the VetCom hasn’t really started to address these players yet. Just to be conservative, I’ll give Jones a E grade here.

7. (Stature) While this player was active, the national media referred to him as:
A An all-time great.
B. A superstar.
C. A perennial all-star
D. A star
E. A good ball player

A solid D grade here, I think

8. (Fame) If this player retired unexpectantly, ESPN would:
A. Genuflect for days
B. Interrupt programming.
C. Lead SportsCenter.
D. Lead Baseball Tonight
E. Show highlights on Baseball Tonight.

On a slow news day, he might get D treatment, but I think mostly we’d see his defensive plays, so he gets a E.

9. (Relevance) Ken Burns’ great-grandson’s 216-hour comprehensive history of baseball in the year 2100 will cast this player as:
A. One of the central characters.
B. A principle characterwith his own full segment.
C. A principle supporting character with a short segment
D. A supporting character with individual footage.
E. A player in passing.

I don’t know. I think an argument can be made that he would be a C, in that the Braves dynasty would be a significant portion of the story and he’s a significant part of the Braves dominance. Plus the high-light clips of his defense. I think I’ll be non-conservative here and give him that C grade

10. (Legacy) When this player shows up at the front door of the Hall Of Fame, laminated wooden plaque in hand, the HOF doorman will direct him to:
A. The penthouse
B. The VIP room
C. The Gallery.
D. The waiting room.
E. The back of the line.

If he’s going to the waiting room, he’d be there a long, long, LONG time. He gets a E grade.

So, totaling it all up, Jones gets a 0.8 GPA (1 B, 1 C, 3 Ds and 5 Es). As a rule of thumb, anything over 2.0 is almost always a HOF. Somewhere around 1.2 is where the real HOF candidates start to be seriously discussed. Jones is still well below that level, in my estimation. But he’s still young enough, and borderline on a couple of questions, that he may still move up the scale. But time, and opportunity, are running out.

I’m not a big fan of WAR. How do other metrics see Jones? With 272 Win Shares he’s right around 250th. The most recent list I have of Linear Weights is after the 2006 season, and he’s in 256th place. Charles Faber’s latest book, also after the 2006 season, has Jones as the 26th greatest center fielder. He doesn’t co-mingle position players, but that would put him right around the 200th best player or so, not counting pitchers. So Charles has him probably in the 275th best player range.

I think it’s more likely that he’s around the 250th best than the 150th best.

Bob’s Keltner List – Johnny Mize

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player?

Well, no, not with Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musual and Bob Feller around.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

While with the Cardinals, in the late ’30s Dizzy Dean was the face of the Cards and Medwick was the star. After Dean got hurt and Medwick was traded, sure, Mize was the best player. Traded to the Giants in 1942, Mel Ott was the name (and manager), and then Mize went off to the war for three years. When he came back in ’46, he was the best player on the team, but it wasn’t really much of a team, generally right around .500. And of course with the Yankees in the early ’50s he was a bit part. Ultimately I have to vote “no” on this question, but it’s a “no plus”.

3. Was he the best baseball player at his position? Was he the best player in his league at his position?

He was a 9-time NL All-Star first baseman in his first 11 seasons. I’d say he or Greenberg was the best. The war years do impact numbers significantly. Plus the ’40s, like the 1890s, seem to be short of really good first basemen. But I think it can be argued reasonably that yes he was the best first basemen of his era (tho I think he’s #2 behind Greenberg)

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

This is kind of a weird one for Mize. He never played on a World Series team while in the National League, only three times being within 5 games of first. And then he goes and plays on five consecutive (in a row) with the Yankees, but never as a regular. I’m not sure how to answer this to my satisfaction, so I’ll punt and go with another “no plus”

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

He was 33 when he came back from the war and played regularly for 3 1/2 years, and then pinch hit until he was forty, so I’d say “yes”

6. Is he the very best player in history not in the Hall?

Question 6 doesn’t apply to Mize, as he is already in the Hall.

7. Are most of the players who have comparable career stats in the HOF?

For some unknown reason, I can’t access baseball-reference to see their comps, not that I have a lot of faith in their comp methodology. I’m guessing that it’ll be hit-or-miss type guys, guys who are barely in or barely out, like Frank Howard, Gil Hodges, Rocky Colavito, Ralph Kiner, those sort of guys. But if you pencil in three years that he lost from the war, I’d guess with the extra 100 homers and 300 RBIs, most of his comps would be HOFers.

8. Do his numbers meet HOF standards?

Again, I’m not able to access Baseball-ref’s Gray/Black Ink numbers, or the HOF Monitor or Standards count, so I don’t know, but he sure has a lot of league-leading figures in my encyclopedia, so my guess is that he does pretty well.

9. Is there evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggest by his stats?

Again, he’s missing 3 prime years because of those pesky Nazis.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible but not in?

And again, this doesn’t apply to Mize.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he win one?

Altho he never won one, he came in second two consecutive years, plus a third and a fifth. He had 6 seasons of 30+ Win Shares, three times leading the NL, but never had that monster 35+ WS season. He also had 4 Top Three rankings in Linear Weights, tho never led. And again, without access to baseball-ref, I don’t know how he did in WAR.

12. How many All-Star seasons did he have?

He played in 10, but likely would have played in two or three more absent the war. Playing in 10 to 12 All-Star games is right at the edge of being an “automatic” HOFer.

13. If this player were the best on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

Looking at Bill’s answer to this question in “Politics Of Glory” (he gives a yes to Oliva and Cepeda on this question), I’d have to say yes, but since he never was on a pennant winner while THE star, I’m reluctant to give him a yes. Is it alright if I punt again and vote “no plus”?

14. and 15. I’m going to pass on, since they’re pretty lame questions for the most part, asking about “character” and “impact”.

Actually, before I started Mize’s Keltner List, I sort of assumed he was a no-brainer HOFer. He didn’t do as well on the Keltner List as I had originally thought he would. He’s a fully qualified candidate that I would vote for, even as a semi-exclusivist. But after doing this List, I can see why MarisFan wouldn’t put him in the “obvious” category.

 

I thought I’d do for Mize, what I did for a f—ew others, looking at players who were from his generation, by year of birth. Since Mize was born in 1913, I looked at guys born between 1907 and 1919:

1907: Luke Appling, Dolf Camilli, Bill Dickey, Jimmie Foxx, Larry French, Bobo Newsom
1908: Wes Ferrell, Lefty Gomez, Ernie Lombardi, Red Rolfe
1909: Stan Hack, Mel Harder, Dutch Leonard, Mel Ott, Bucky Walkters Lon Warneke
1910 Dizzy Dean, Wally Moses, Joe Vosmik
1911: Hank Greenberg, Joe Medwick
1912: Harlond Clift, Hal Trosky, Arky Vaughn
1913: Johnny Mize, Cecil Travis, Rudy York
1914: Harry Breechen, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Nicholson
1915: Walker Cooper, Joe Gordon, Allie Reynolds
1916: Phil Cavaretta, Bob Elliott, Ken Keltner, Buddy Lewis, Enos Slaughter
1917: Lou Boudreau, Dom DiMaggioMarty Marion, Phil Rizzuto, Virgil Trucks
1918: Bobby Doerr, Bob Feller, Eddie Lopat, PeeWee Reese, Mickey Vernon, Ted Williams
1919: Johnny Pesky, Vic Raschi, Jackie Robinson

Let’s see, absolute no-brainers: Jimmie Foxx, Bill Dickey, Mel Ott, Joe DiMaggio, Reese, Williams, Feller and Robinson, for a total of 8.

Guys who are just a notch below no-brainers: Appling, Dean, Greenberg, Medwick, Vaughn, Mize, Gordon, Slaughter, Boudreau, Rizzuto and Doerr, for another 11.

I’ve mentioned before that in a 13-year period that there are about 25-30 HOFers (in my opinion), so who else would I endorse? Lombardi, Gomez,and Hack, I guess, and that’s about it. So I’m at 22.

I wonder how many players lost a HOF career from military service (Travis? Vernon?) or most tragically, from loss of life? My best guess: 3 to 8 unknowables.