Posts Tagged ‘Mark McGwire’

Picking the Winners for the Latest Vet’s Committee

October 7, 2016

Well, we have the newest version of the Veteran’s Committee getting ready to make its call for the Hall of Fame (5 November). The ballot is posted below and I always make my choices for enshrinement. This year is no different, but the way I’m going at it is.

Let me start with the players (Baines, Belle, Clark, Hershiser, McGwire). It’s not like there’s a bad player there, but there’s not much to be excited about either. McGwire has the steroid issue, Hershiser is known for one season (and more like two months), Clark was great for a few years and got hurt, Belle was a monster (ask Fernando Vina about it) but also got hurt, and Baines may be the ultimate in compiling numbers over a long, long time. It’s not like any of them is exactly a bad choice, it’s just that none of them are an inspired choice. I wouldn’t be overly upset if any of them got in, and in Albert Belle’s case I’d certainly tell him I’m all for him if he asked (I very much value my continued good health), but then again if none of them got in, I wouldn’t be overly upset either. So I guess all that means I wouldn’t, as a member of the committee, vote for any of them.

The managers are quite a different story. I loved Lou Piniella. He had fire, he had savvy, he could win with weaker teams. Davey Johnson seemed to win when he had good teams and lose with weaker teams. Like Piniella he won it all once (in 1986, before the current committee’s beginning date of 1988) and went to the playoffs a lot. But I’m setting both aside because I think the people who set up the ballot made a huge blunder here. Where the heck is Jim Leyland? Like Piniella and Johnson he made the playoffs a bunch and won it all once (1997). He’s a three time manager of the year winner, as is Piniella (twice for Johnson). Of course I’ll admit his winning percentage is lower than either of the others, but he spent time making the Pirates a winner and had to put up with Loria at Miami and still won a World Series. I’m not about to vote for the other two without being able to at least consider Leyland.

For the executives I know I would vote for John Schuerholz. He built winning teams in both Atlanta and Kansas City. Granted the KC team already had Brett and Willie Wilson and many of the others, but Schuerholz added the players necessary to get to the 1985 championship. The other two, Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner have decent cases (and I expect Selig to make it in November), but I have a personal preference for one executive at a time, so Schuerholz gets my nod.

When I first thought about this list I got a call from my son. We spent time talking about a lot of things, including the Vet’s Committee vote. He had a suggestion, which I pass along to you. Currently there are 4 Veteran’s Committees. He suggested pushing it to five. Now hear me out before you scream too loud, “They already have four and you idiots want to jump to five?” His idea was that the four current committees confine themselves to players and that a new fifth committee meet periodically (the frequency can be determined) to vote strictly on non-players (managers, owners, executives, contributors, Negro Leagues, etc.). This would allow the current committees to concentrate more on players while the new committee did all the others. Frankly, I think it’s a decent idea. They’ll never do it because then the current committees would never elect a player. In all the time they had the three previous committees they elected two total players: Deacon White and Ron Santo. They did elect a handful of non-players and taking those away would require the committees to focus on players. Maybe they wouldn’t elect anyone and maybe they shouldn’t. Anyway I thought it an idea worth passing along.

New Veteran’s Ballot Announced

October 4, 2016

After revamping the Veteran’s Committee (s) for the 1000th time (give or take), the Hall of Fame just announced its newest ballot. This one is for the Vet’s Committee now known as “Today’s Game.” It covers the last handful of years (since 1988) and includes the following names:

Players: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Mark McGwire;

Managers: Lou Piniella, Davey Johnson (who might also be considered a player);

Executives: John Schuerholz, Bud Selig, George Steinbrenner.

The election will be 5 December 2016 by a 16 member committee. For election an individual must get 75% of the vote (12 voters).

First in St. Louis

March 3, 2016
Johnny Mize with the Cardinals

Johnny Mize with the Cardinals

Did you ever notice how certain teams breed players at particular positions? The Yankees do it at Second Base, in Center Field, and Catching. The Red Sox produce great left fielders. The Dodgers and Giants come up with superior pitchers. St. Louis is one of those. As the title of this little excursion should alert you, for the Cards it’s First Base.

The Cardinals began business in the 1880s as part of the fledgling American Association. They were then called the Browns and were immediately successful and began with an excellent first baseman. Charles Comiskey started at first for the Browns for most of the 1880s. He wasn’t that great a hitter, but he was considered a good fielder (for his era), an innovator in first base play, and spent much of the decade as the team manager. The team won four pennants with him as player-manager.

The team moved to the National League in 1892 and slipped back toward the bottom of the field. They got very little out of their first baseman until Jake Beckley joined the team in 1904. He had one great season, winning a number of league titles, but wasn’t much beyond that. He was followed by Ed Konetchy and Dots Miller as first basemen for the rest of the Deadball Era. They weren’t bad (Konetchy hit over .300 a couple of times), but weren’t particularly notable either and the Cards floundered.

That changed in the 1920s. St. Louis began a long drive toward the top of the standing that culminated in the 1926 National League pennant. Most of the glory had to go to Rogers Hornsby, but the Cards found a pretty fair first baseman to help the Rajah along. He was Jim Bottomley and he was good enough to enter the Hall of Fame, although some think he’s one of those guys who shouldn’t be there. Bottomley won a home run crown and a couple of RBI titles. He lasted through the championship seasons of 1926, 1928, 1930, and 1931 before being replaced by Rip Collins. Collins was a power hitter who fit in quite nicely with the raucous Cardinals team of the 1930s. He hit well, won a home run title, drove in a lot of runs, and became a mainstay of the “Gas House Gang.”

But by 1936 St. Louis had found another power hitting first baseman. His name was Johnny Mize and he became the dominant first baseman in the NL for several years. (I’ve never done anything on him and I need to remedy that). He won a batting title, and RBI title, and a couple of home run titles before being traded to the Giants. He did well there and later helped the Yankees to a couple of championships. But he left just as the Cardinals found the promised land again. The 1942 through 1946 Cards won three championships and four pennants. Ray Sanders did most of the work at first (with Johnny Hopp holding down first in 1942). He was no Mize, but he played well enough. His departure led to a long series of Cardinal first basemen that didn’t last long nor did they provide a lot of thrills. But in some ways it didn’t matter. If all else failed, St. Louis could always bring Stan Musial in from the outfield to play first. He did it a lot and no one cared if he could field or not. He was pretty good with the glove, but his forte was the use of the bat.

Things got back to normal for St. Louis at first with the arrival of Bill White in 1957. He would hold down the position through 1965 and become a major factor in the Cardinals championship run of 1964. He was good with the bat, good with the leather. He was one of the men who constituted an all-St. Louis infield in the All Star game of 1963 (Julian Javier, Dick Groat, and Ken Boyer were the others). White hung around until replaced in 1966 by Orlando Cepeda. Cepeda had been, with Willie McCovey, part of a terrible fielding left field combination at San Francisco. One of them could go to first, but the other would have to stay in left and leak runs or be traded. McCovey was younger, so he got to go to first and Cepeda was traded. The trade was to St. Louis where he ended up at first also. It worked. He won an MVP in 1967 and was part of two pennant winning teams in 1967 and 1968, the ’67 team winning the World Series.

But Cha Cha was getting old and was never much at first, so by 1969 the team was looking for a new first baseman. They tried a couple of different options, but finally settled on ex-catcher, ex-third baseman Joe Torre. He lasted a couple of years before moving on for Keith Hernandez.

Hernandez was the great fielding first sacker of his day. He was universally touted for his defensive skills, so much so that people forgot he could also hit. He won an MVP in 1979 (a tie with Willie Stargell of Pittsburgh), then joined in a championship season in 1982, before moving on to the Mets. And that was it for a while for St. Louis at first base. True they had Jack Clark for a while (and picked up a couple of pennants with him at first) and Pedro Guerrero but neither was a satisfactory answer to their woes at first. That changed with the arrival of Mark McGwire in 1992.

McGwire was the power hitting machine that eventually set a single season home run title. We’ve come to see that record as dubious because of the steroid issue, but for St. Louis it provided a boost in attendance and in winning. By 2001, after a couple of playoff appearances, injuries, questions about steroids, and age took McGwire to the showers. But St. Louis had one throw left at first.

Albert Pujols came to the Cards in 2001. He was rookie of the year and a heck of a hitter. But he had no set position. They tried him in the outfield, then at third. Finally they decided to move him to first. He wasn’t very good at first, at least not for a while. But he got better with the leather and there was never anything wrong with the way he swung the lumber. The team won a pennant, then two World Series’ with Pujols at first. He picked up a ton of hardware including three MVP awards. In 2012 he left for Southern California. St. Louis has yet to replace him.

Although there have been periods when St. Louis first basemen were pedestrian, it’s not all that common. Throughout most of their history they’ve managed to find excellent, if not truly great, first basemen. There’s no Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle handoff nor a Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski baton pass, but over a century and a half, the Cardinals have produced an excellent first base tree.


Nine Thoughts on the 2016 Hall of Fame Class

January 7, 2016

As baseball uses nine men in the field and nine men in the batting order, here’s nine random thoughts on the just concluded Hall of Fame voting:
1. First and foremost, congratulations to both Ken Griffey, Jr, the second best player from Donora, Pennsylvania (behind Stan Musial) and Mike Piazza on election to Cooperstown.

2. Three people didn’t vote for Griffey, but his 99% of the vote is the highest percentage ever. I read a lot of stuff saying Griffey could be the first unanimous selection. Come on, team, Babe Ruth wasn’t unanimous and neither Joe DiMaggio nor Yogi Berra made it on the first ballot so who could possibly believe that anyone was going to be unanimous? It renews my faith in the writers. I’ve said for years that they’re a poor group to pick the Hall of Fame and the three guys proved me right again.

3. Piazza is by far the more interesting choice. There are the steroid rumors around him that are just that, rumors. But there is the possibility that they are true. If, in his induction speech Piazza were to say “Yeah, I used the stuff,” then it becomes much more difficult for voters to keep out players who acknowledge they used stuff (McGwire) or are accused (Clemens, Bonds), or who flunked a test (Palmeiro). It will be interesting to see where this goes. None of this is meant to imply that I believe Piazza used anything but coffee while playing.

4. The culling of the deadweight among the voters allowed for some interesting results. Major jumps by Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, Curt Shilling, and Edgar Martinez are unthinkable without a change in the voters. It may be a signal that all are on the road to Cooperstown (or maybe not).

5. The loss of the “old guard” type voters helped both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but not a lot. Neither went up as much as 10% and now we have six years left to see if they can continue gaining ground and how much of that ground they’ll gain. I was certain, until this vote, that the writers were going to kick them down the road to the Vets Committee and let them (the Vets Committee) make the hard choices. Maybe that’s changed. Next year will tell us much about how that’s going to work.

6. Jim Edmonds is not a Hall of Famer, the voters said so. OK, maybe he isn’t, but he’s better than 2% of the vote, a lot better. It’s a shame he won’t get another chance until the Veteran’s Committee has its say. Alan Trammell is not a Hall of Famer. At least he had 15 years and got 40% of the vote. I think they’re wrong, but now we get to see what the Veteran’s Committee says. And Mark McGwire is not a Hall of Famer although he had only 10 years to make his case. It appears he will be the test case for my kick it down the road to the Vets Committee theory (Geez, I’m writing about the Vets Committee a lot, aren’t I?).

7. Trevor Hoffman didn’t get in but got enough votes to appear a viable candidate for enshrinement on a later ballot. I think he needed that because I’m not sure he could sustain a long, gradual rise before getting over the 75% threshold. The problem is Mariano Rivera. When Rivera becomes eligible he should get in easily and Hoffman can no longer say he has the most saves of anyone eligible (and saves do seem to matter a lot to the voters). I was stunned Billy Wagner didn’t do better. At least he stayed on the ballot.

8. Next year adds Vlad Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Manny Ramirez (among others) to the ballot, making it again a large ballot. I do wish they’d dump the 10 vote rule. I wonder how much that hurt players like Edmonds?

9. All in all, with the exception of what happened to Edmonds and Trammell, I’m pleased with the results. Two worthy candidates got in, a handful of other candidates made major strides toward possible election. That’s not bad. Again congrats to Griffey and Piazza. Now I wonder which cap Piazza will wear on his plaque.

Changing the Hall Vote

July 28, 2014

On this, the 100th Anniversary of the opening of World War I, I note that the Hall of Fame just announced that it is changing the voting for election to the Hall. I was going to do something akin to what I did for 28 June, but decided to go another way.

Currently players receiving a minimum vote can remain on the Hall ballot for 15 years. Beginning with the next election that will change to a maximum of 10 years. As I seem to be on a Hall of Fame kick anyway, here’s some thoughts on the change.

1. I’m glad to see they’ve grandfathered in Don Mattingly, Lee Smith, and Alan Trammel. They are the only people currently on the ballot who have been there for more than 10 years. I think if you’ve passed the 10 year limit and were expecting to get 15, you should get the 15.

2. I wonder how much it will affect guys who are close to 10, but not there yet. Tim Raines now has three years left, not eight. I’ll be interested to see if his vote total, and others like him, takes a significant jump based on writers who weren’t voting for him (or others)  on the idea that they had plenty of time left to get inducted.

3. I like the change that makes the list of voters public. I wish they’d gone a step further and forced the ballot to become public.

4. Making the writers sign a pledge to do their own voting rather than foist if off on others (Hello, Dan LeBetard) is also a good idea. I just wish they’d cut out some of the deadwood writers who haven’t covered baseball in eons.

5. It will make it certain that a decision on the PED boys will occur quicker. Mark McGwire now has two years left, not seven. Sosa has eight, not 13. Ditto for guys like Clemens and Bonds. It will be interesting to see if any of them takes a sudden jump in vote totals because of this. On a personal note, my best guess here is that the writers will kick them down the road to the Veteran’s Committees and let them make the hard choices.

6. They still didn’t change the 10 person vote limit. A writer still only gets 10 votes per ballot.

Would be interested to hear other comments on the changes, either in comments below or on your own blog. If you do comment on your own blog, be sure to let me know.

And finally, congrats to the newest inductees.

25 Years On

October 16, 2013
Dodgers first baseman Franklin Stubbs

Dodgers first baseman Franklin Stubbs

Normally I do a post about this time each year dealing with what happened 25 years ago. I’ve held off this year because the post would involve the Dodgers and they happen to be still playing (although for how much longer is a question). But it’s time to remind you what happened a quarter century back.

It was supposed to be a matchup between the “Bash Brothers” of Oakland and the Mets. Everyone agreed that the World Series would be between the two best teams in baseball and those were the Athletics and the Mets. The A’s were dominant in the American League. Led by MVP Jose Conseco who became the first player with both 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases, “Bash Brother” Mark McGwire only one year removed from his Rookie of the Year performance, a fine pitching staff, and Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley Oakland rolled over Boston to keep up its end of the bargain.

In the National League the Mets, two years removed from their World Series win, rolled to the NL East title and had only to dispatch the Dodgers, a team they held an 11-1 record against, to meet the A’s in what was a hugely anticipated World Series. On the way to that Series showdown, the Dodgers pulled off one of the greatest upsets since David took out Goliath in the first round.

It was a fairly nondescript Dodgers team. Most were players no one had heard of prior to 1988. The infield was, first around to third, Franklin Stubbs, Steve Sax, Alfredo Griffin, and Jeff Hamilton. Sax was a former Rookie of the Year (1982), Griffin was a Toronto cast-off who’d failed to cross the Mendoza line with his bat, and Stubbs and Hamilton were, at least to most fans, unknown. The outfield had Mike Marshall (not to be confused with the 1970s relief man) who had some power, John Shelby (another cast-off, this time from Baltimore), and Kirk Gibson. Gibson was new to the team, a free agent from Detroit. He’d become the heart and soul of the team and was destined to pick up the NL MVP award at the end of the season. Mike Scioscia was the catcher. The staff consisted of Orel Hershiser, having his career year and destined to win the NL Cy Young Award, and a pair of Tims, Leary and Belcher. Fernando Valenzuela was hurt, Don Sutton had just retired. John Tudor was over from St. Louis, but had pitched only nine games for LA> Although Jay Howell had emerged as the primary closer, Alejandro Pena (not yet a closer for the Braves), and Jesse Orosco (a Mets cast-off) had, together, as many saves as Howell. Other than Hershiser, it was a less-than-stellar staff.

But then they beat the Mets. It took seven games, but they did it. Scioscia and Gibson had big hits, Hershiser picked up a win, and of all things, a save (only his second relief appearance of the year) and the Dodgers won the playoff. Along the way, Gibson’s injuries mounted and it was considered unlikely that he’d play in the Series.

Of course you know the result. Conseco smashed a grand slam in game one putting Oakland ahead 4-0 and confirming people’s belief that the Series would be short and one-sided. Then Gibson’s sub, Mickey Hatcher hit the first of his two home runs (he’d had one all season) and the Dodgers clawed back to 4-3 before Gibson pinch hit one of the two most famous home runs in Dodgers history (Bobby Thomson hit the other) and win game one. Hershiser was magic in game two throwing a three-hit shutout . The A;s managed a win in game three on McGwire’s walk off home run.

The key game was game four. Using what Bob Costas described as the weakest lineup in World Series history, the Dodgers pulled off a surprise. With backups Hatcher, Mike Davis, and Rick Dempsey (Scioscia got hurt during the game) playing and Danny Heep as the designated hitter, they beat Cy Young candidate Dave Stewart 4-3. Then Hershiser came back to win game five, the Series, and the Series MVP the next evening.

For the Dodgers it was a great one year run. they dropped to fourth in 1989 and didn’t get back to playoff baseball until 1995. They have not been to the World Series since. Oakland, on the other hand, won two more AL titles, and the 1989 World Series. They won one more division title in 1992, then slid back.

It was a fascinating Series, dominated today by Gibson’s magical home run. But each game was individually interesting with three games being decided by one run. It’s kind of a shame that has become known for one play.

So What Happens Next?

January 11, 2012

Now the Hall of Fame voting is over. We can sit around and cuss and discuss the results. Your favorite get in? Good for him. Your favorite still on the outside looking in? Sorry about that. But there’s always next year for him (unless the Mayan thing is right). So maybe it’s time to start talking about next year’s Hall of Fame election.

I understand the dilemma of the voters. You’re going to have people with truly astounding numbers on the list. You’re going to have people who are admitted or suspected PED users. You’re going to have people on the list that were great players prior to the PED controversy who got better when PED’s were suspected. What do you do? I’m a bad person to ask for advice, because I’m not privy to all the nuances of the Mitchell Report, the BALCO testimony, and God knows what else. But, of course, that’s never stopped me before, so why should it now?

There are, in broadest terms, three groups of players when it comes to PEDs: those we’re sure didn’t use them, those we’re sure did, and those we don’t know about. And the key word there is “sure.” Because other than a few admissions (Mark McGwire,  AndyPettitte, etc), most of the players we’re “sure” about are really people we highly suspect used PEDs. 

In some ways the decision has already been made by the failure of McGwire and Rafael Palmiero to receive enshrinement in Cooperstown.Thus I find the questioning about what will happen next year a little odd. Perhaps its the presence of Barry Bonds on the list or the knowledge that Alex Rodriguez lurks just a few years down the road that leads to the questioning. Because I do find it strange. If a decision has been made on McGwire and Palmiero then why is there a question about others? I know Palmiero got caught with his hand in the cookie jar so I can  see a difference, but McGwire was being held out before he admitted anything (“I’m not here to talk about the past.”).

This isn’t an argument to keep the bums out, but to try to figure out why we’re still asking the questions. Somehow you can’t have one standard for McGwire, another for Bonds. I say that while admitting Bonds was a better player without PEDs. So that leads to the problem of what to do with quality players like Bonds and Clemens who were probable Hall of Fame inductees before they allegedly got into PEDs. Frankly, I think the one cancels out the other (using PEDs cancels out quality prior to PEDs) but others will disagree. 

So maybe the solution is simple. No PED user (and here the word “suspected” must come into play) can get in on his first five tries, then maybe that’s penance enough and he can be voted in. Maybe that’s a bad idea, maybe it should be one year or two or ten (or maybe the plaques ought to mention it). But in fairness to the guys who no one believes used them there has to be some difference made. Besides the idea of being a “First Ballot Hall of Famer” is so ingrained in us that to keep these players from that title is fitting. Do we really want to let their names be uttered positively in the same sentence with the likes of Stan Musial or Jackie Robinson?

I know this rambles and the solution is only vague, but that reflects how much I’m torn by this issue. I really don’t want these jerks in Cooperstown beside Musial and Robinson, but I understand the impact of the players and their numbers.

Comparing Across Eras

May 30, 2011

Nap LaJoie

I have to admit I’m guilty of something. It’s a small thing, not exactly a sin, but I still do it. I’m guilty of trying to compare players across eras. We all do it. We compare Babe Ruth to Hank Aaron. We compare Lou Gehrig to Mark McGwire. We compare Honus Wagner to Derek Jeter. Baseball statisticians have come up with stat after stat that attempts to compare players. Some of them take the time to try to figure out how the eras differ and then try to factor that into the equation. Some of those do a fairly good job of it, and others stink up the joint when they try. So here’s a look at some of the factors that I think have to be considered when trying to compare players across eras.

1. Segregation. This one should be obvious and I have no idea how you factor it in. How much does Lefty Grove not having to face Josh Gibson change Grove’s overall numbers? Got me, coach. And of course it works the other way too. How much does Satchel Paige’s inability to face Babe Ruth in meaningful competition change Paige’s numbers? Again, got me, coach. I think it is important to recognize this is a problem. I simply have no idea how you fix it.

2. Roster sizes. I don’t want to hit this one too hard. If you have Babe Ruth on your team, you’re going to play him a lot. But roster sizes do matter, at least some. The smaller the roster, the less a manager can rest a player and that can create end of season slumps that might not occur on teams with larger rosters.

3. Rules changes. I tend to harp on the pitching change to 60’6″ as a watershed in baseball, but there are a lot of major rules changes that make it difficult to compare players. How would Cy Young do pitching at 50 feet? Well, we actually know he did quite well for a few years, but we don’t know what that means for someone like Walter Johnson. Pud Galvin never pitched a big  league game at 60’6″. Could he have been successful there? Don’t know and don’t know how to figure it out. There are other problems like ball and strike count, stolen base rules, etc. My guess is that some of them can be accounted for by looking at before and after stats and seeing how much change occurs (sort of like figuring out how much expansion changes things), but I don’t know you can account for every situation, particularly the mound. I also know this is a much greater problem in trying to factor in 19th Century players.

4. Equipment. How good was Honus Wagner in the field? A look at his basic fielding  stats shows he was OK, but nothing special. Some of the newer stats begin to show us just how good he was, but many of the older ones don’t take the difference in equipment into account. When you’re playing shortstop with a glove that looks a lot like my winter gloves, you’re not going to put up fielding statistics that equal those of players with modern gloves.  Take a look at modern catching equipment versus the gear of players as recent as Ray Schalk (of 1919 fame). Fielding statistics have gotten better over the years, but much of that is  artificial, brought on by equipment changes. Same for batting. Moderns bats are a far cry from the table legs used by guys at the turn of the 20th Century. There’s a wonderful picture of Nap LaJoie that I stuck in above. Take a look at the bat. Now think about a modern bat. Tell me that one factor doesn’t affect stats.

5. Fields. Modern baseball parks are a far cry from early parks. I’m not talking about the distance to fences, that’s easy to factor in. What I’m talking about is the general condition of the playing surface. Wagner talked about picking up a  ball and watching a cloud of  dust, a handful of pebbles, and the ball all going toward first at the same time. Don’t know how many times that actually happened, but it’s not going to happen at all today. Those uneven fields created more errors and also made normal chances more difficult. I think you can determine the best fielders of the era, but to compare them to modern fielders is difficult enough without worrying about the condition of the playing surface in 1910.

6. Going off to war. Really cuts down on your playing time and is specific to time and place.

Most of what I’ve talked about so far is generally known, and I think statisticians have made good-faith efforts to factor in those things. How much success they’ve had is another question. I don’t know that Win Shares or WAR or anything else adequately accounts for these things, but it’s evident that they are trying. It’s the following two items that I think have been vastly underappreciated by people who try to compare players.

7. Medical advances. You do know that if Tommy John never has the surgery named for him that he never enters a Hall of Fame discussion, don’t you? If that surgery were available in 1935, maybe Dizzy Dean wins another 100 games (or maybe something else goes wrong and he doesn’t). Modern arthritis treatments might give Sandy Koufax another twenty win season. My point is that medical advances change the ability of players to compete just as changes in bats and gloves and fields do the same. I don’t know that anyone has considered this. I also don’t know how you would factor it in, but I think it should be noted at some point.

8. Salaries. Back when I was collecting baseball cards the info on the back sometimes told you what the guy did in the offseason. Most players had to have a “real” job to make ends meet. Most of those jobs weren’t going to enhance your baseball skills. A guy like Richie Hebner dug graves. That might keep him in shape, but didn’t particularly help his batting eye. An old Cardinals pitcher named Ray Washburn sold insurance. Checking  actuary tables probably didn’t hurt his eyesight too much, but I’ll bet it didn’t help his throwing motion. With modern salaries making it less necessary for players to have a “real” job in the offseason they have more time to hone their baseball skills, thus making them better players. This doesn’t mean they all do it in the offseason, only that the opportunity is there for modern players, an option that wasn’t as readily available in 1960. Again, I’m not sure how that’s factored in, but it probably should  be noted.

So the next time you decide to see if you can figure out which was better, Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron, don’t forget to factor in a bunch of things that don’t always show up in the stats. There are others that I didn’t mention above (like advances in training methods), but these will do for starters. Have fun.

Knocking Yourself In

May 27, 2010

I’ve just invented a new stat, actually two. OK, I just heard that “Oh, God, not another one” groan. Bear with me here. I have high hopes for this one. Other people have gotten a lot of Benjamins off their stats. I hope to gain at least a couple of Abes off mine.

There’s been a lot of talk among baseball nuts about the RBI as an overrated stat, and I’ll admit that it can be such. But it also has value. So I started looking at the stat and remembered a lot of consternation back in the early 2000s when opposing teams would walk Barry Bonds with a man on base, thus cutting down on his chance to pick up an RBI (or two or more it he parked one). That led me to ask myself  “Self, I wonder how many of Bonds’ RBIs are himself (a homer) and how many are somebody else.” Self didn’t know, so I decided to look it up and in doing so came up with the following stats (drum roll,please). The first is RBI’s-not self (RBI-NS–catchy, right). Basically you take the player’s home runs and subtract them from his RBI’s giving you RBI-NS (remember, when the lawsuit comes, you heard this here first). For Bonds, as our example, you get 1996 minus 762 for a total of 1234 (honest to God) total men Bonds drove in who were already on base when he came to bat. 

The second stat is, and you knew this was coming,  percentage of RBI’s that are not self (%RBI-NS–equally catchy, right?). This is figured by dividing the RBI-NS number by the total number of RBIs. In Bonds’ case that’s 1234 divided by 1996 for a 62% total (rounded). That means 62% of Bonds’ RBIs are men already on base.

I think these stats have some value because they do let you know how much the team contributed to a player’s RBI total. They also give you some new ways to compare players directly (of course they don’t account for things like high scoring eras or park effects). And finally, I think they are fun to note.

So here’s a look at some of the totals as of 25 May 2010 (for active players). I took every player with 500 home runs and the next four down (Lou Gehrig, Fred McGriff, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell) because I was curious about Gehrig and Musial. What I found was an almost numbing consistency. Of the 25 players with 500 or more homers, Mark McGwire has only 59% of his RBIs being someone other than himself (that’s the low). Of the same group, Eddie Murray has the highest percentage (74%) of his RBIs being someone other than himself. Everyone else is in the 15 point range between them. That’s not much of a swing. Pick a player, pick an era, pick a team, and you get pretty much the same numbers. Ruth? 68%. Aaron? 67%. Mantle? 64%. Ted Williams 72%. All darned close to each other. Of all the guys I tried, Musial had the highest percentage at 76%, with Gehrig next at 75%. Those kind of figure because each had a ton of RBIs and less home runs than the guys above them on the homer list, which should be expected. After all, the 500 home run guy with the highest percentage is Murray, the guy with the lowest home run total.

Now that I did all this (“You have to get out more,” I hear you say) I decided to look at a couple of Deadball Era players, Cobb and Wagner. Of course each has a ton of RBIs and almost no home runs. Cobb’s %RBI-NS is 94%. So is Wagner’s. Then I did Cap Anson and got 95%. So this stat is skewed in the Deadball Era, but is still fun to look at.

Feel free to use it, (if you’re silly enough) to check on any player you want. Just send the $5.00 to me care of wordpress.

A Hall of Fame Absurdity

December 2, 2009

Did you know that no one has ever been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame unanimouly? Isn’t that absurd? That means that some idiot of a writer didn’t think Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron or Lefty Grove was Hall of Fame worthy.

Actually it doesn’t really mean that. When asked, most of these guys argue that they don’t vote for anyone on the first try no matter who it is. Of course they can’t explain how the guy gets better on the second ballot. Can you imagine, “I ain’t voting for Babe Ruth the first time because I never vote for anyone the first time. However, on the second time through I’ll give him a vote. By next year his numbers will have improved enough for me to pick him.”? Well, neither can I so I find the entire idea stupid.

Having said all that, there is one exception I might make. How’s about refusing to vote for any player tainted by steroids the first time he shows up on the ballot? No matter how qualified he otherwise might be, “just say ‘no'” the first time. If the guy gets in later because the writers voted for him, that’s up to the writers. But it will show the jerk exactly what the writers think of him. This sort of thing is already occurring with Mark McGwire. Hopefully it will continue.