Monday, November 3, 2014

Breaking Down Golden Era Ballot

Dick Allen's paid his dues--it's time to let him in (CSNChicago)
Dick Allen: YES
I've written several times before on this blog that I feel very strongly about Allen's status as a worthy Hall of Famer. He was the best hitter in baseball for more than a decade, for crying out loud.

Ken Boyer: YES
Said yes to him when I looked at his candidacy over the summer. He was basically Ron Santo before Ron Santo, and the Hall could really use more third basemen.

Gil Hodges: YES
Falls a bit short as a player, but his status as a Brooklyn Dodger legend and famed manager of the Miracle Mets should be enough to put him over the edge. This is a sentimental pick; he was a great ballplayer and a better man.

Jim Kaat: YES
Kaat's a tricky one, as he compiled some impressive counting numbers in his 25 big league seasons but rarely dominated. A lot like Tommy John in this regard. A three-time All-Star, only once did he receive Cy Young votes or finish higher than 20th in the MVP balloting. Kaat was a true compiler, pitching until he was 44, winning 283 games, and completing over 4,500 innings. His 16 Gold Gloves are the second-most at any position to Greg Maddux's 18. According to FanGraphs he's a deserving candidate with 69.4 fWAR, but Baseball-Reference values his career at a clearly un-Hall-worthy 45.3 bWAR. Split the dfference and you wind up with 57.4 WAR; good but not very impressive for somebody with a quarter-century long career.This disparity is explained by the two sites' different methods in calculating pitching WAR, with FanGraphs relying on FIP and B-R preferring runs allowed. While Kaat was better than average when it came to keeping opponents from scoring, his 108 ERA+ and 93 ERA- are nothing special. His 3.41 FIP is solid, right in line with his 3.45 ERA, and reflects how he was a good control pitcher who was difficult to take deep.

So why am I saying yes to Kaat? A few reasons. One is that eight of his 10 most comparable pitchers are in the Hall, and the other two (John and Frank Tanana) have compelling cases. Another is that he did have a Hall of Fame peak, even if it wasn't very long and sort of spread out (2.95 ERA from 1964''68, plus Cy Young caliber years in 1974 and 1975). But the third and most important one is that if he had won just one more decision for every year that he pitched, he'd have 308 career wins and of course he would be in the Hall of Fame. I'm not going to keep him out of Cooperstown because he didn't pitch for very good teams early and later on in his career.

Minnie Minoso: YES
A classic borderline case, Minoso's career has been re-examined lately by statheads who appreciate his career .298/.389/.459 batting line. During his heyday in the 1950s he was one of the best all-around players in baseball, ranking as the sixth-most valuable position player in baseball from 1951 through 1961. During that time Minoso was worth over 50 fWAR, earned seven All-Star nods, won three Gold Gloves, and stole almost 200 bases. He was also a great run producer, averaging nearly 100 runs and 90 RBI per year despite never hitting 25 home runs in any season. Had Minoso not been held back by the racial attitudes of the times (he didn't play his first full season until he was 25) or not completely fallen apart after turning 36 (-1.4 fWAR in his final five seasons) he would have a much stronger case, but as it is he merits induction for his decade-long dominance of the American League.

Tony Oliva: NO
Oliva's a lot like Don Mattingly in that he was absolutely a Hall of Fame hitter at his peak, but knee injuries ruined the second half of his career and ultimately prevented him from compiling Hall-worthy numbers. His career was just too short, as he only had 11 seasons with more than 70 games played and thus fell short of 2,000 hits and 1,000 runs/RBI. It's too bad because he was a beast in his prime from 1964--the year he won AL Rookie of the Year award--to 1971, when he won his third and final batting title. In between he piled up 42.2 bWAR, made eight straight All-Star teams, led the league in hits five times, and drew MVP votes every year. His batting record is awfully similar to Kirby Puckett's, another popular Minnesota Twin whose career was tragically cut short by physical circumstances.

Billy Pierce: NO
Pierce has been largely forgotten by baseball fans, which shouldn't have happened considering he was the third-most valuable pitcher in baseball from 1950 through 1962. During those 13 years only Robin Roberts and Warren Spahn, two clear-cut Hall of Famers, were better. He made seven All-Star squads, won 211 games, and was worth around 55 wins above replacement depending on which site you prefer. It's tough to say no to someone who was the third-best pitcher in baseball for 13 years, but that's what I'm doing with Pierce. He's right on the cusp for me, but I say nay because his peak wasn't quite dominant enough for someone who pitched 14 full seasons, six of which produced five or more fWAR but with only two others topping three. He falls short in all the Hall of Fame statistics except for Gray Ink, which he barely passes. It's too bad his career wrapped up just as the second Deadball era was getting underway, as he likely would have had several more effective seasons and retired Hall-worthy.

Luis Tiant:YES
Wrote at length about Loo-eee's worthy candidacy here. As somebody who exceeds the BBWAA standard and Hall of Fame standard, he's somebody who should have gone in a long time ago.

Maury Wills: NO
If Wills is worthy, then so is Roger Maris, though neither of them are because they did not sustain their greatness long enough. Wills was very overrated because of his blinding speed, which wasn't particularly valuable because he actually led the league in caught stealing more times (7) than he did in stolen bases (6). With no power to speak of (20 career big flies) and an unimpressive .330 OBP, he would only be Hall-worthy if he played Ozzie Smith-quality defense. While Wills did win two Gold Gloves, he was nothing special in the field. Add it all up and you have a solid, but hardly Hall-worthy shortstop who didn't even crack 40 career WAR.

Bob Howsam: SURE
GM and club president of the Big Red Machine, one of the great baseball dynasties of all time. He also tried to bring big league baseball to Colorado three decades before the Rockies became a thing. So why not?


  1. Good to see your thoughts, but if you had to limit your ballot to four (like in the actual committee), which four would make the cut?

  2. i'd cut Kaat and Hodges and go with Minoso, Allen, Tiant, and Boyer

  3. Incredible. All the reasons you say no to the ones you say no too, also apply to Minoso. In 17 seasons he didn't get 2000 hits. He led the league in caught stealing 6 times (led the league in SBs 3 times) in fact, he was a terrible base stealer. A .298 hitter, 205 SBs, barely over a 1000 RBIs and 1136 runs - he's barely a HAll of Good player, let alone a Hall of Famer.

    1. I was initially a no on Minoso, but changed my mind after realizing he was held back by segregation and deserves extra credit for being a pioneer