Each year I’ve presented my ideas on who belongs and, based almost totally on stats and sabermetric studies, who doesn’t. I continue the thread this year upon the release of names who are on this year’s most contentious of ballots. Here’s my official position: I will absolutely consider, on the strength of the stats, and not on the relative mythical strength of any drug or enhancer, which players belong.
The dangerous thinking is that only in recent times was the playing field so different between the juicers and those who don’t. Amphetamines have been around the game for pretty much its duration. How are we to believe the field was never level? Is it any different today? If one player on either side had so much as half a cup of coffee just before practice, or perhaps a big meal the night before, does this suggest a hidden advantage? It’s difficult to tell. We may never really know. Therefore, I will grant the benefit of doubt that the stats are legit and they count. Those players, in those bodies, hit those homers, struck out those batters, made insanely great plays. And, Major League Baseball never passed any laws outright banning such substances before until recently. Still, are the greenies finding their way to players? Who knows what evil lurks in the trainer’s room or nearby hospitals, or what the greater media knows but doesn’t tell us?
Everything funnels down to the sportswriters, some loved, some hated, to decide immortality for all of us. Granted, they may know the game from being up close for a numbers, but how many played it, or even understood the game from more than behind a typewriter or laptop? No, we can’t keep such writers from exercising their true opinions or maintaining their grudges, but there may be a way to get around this.
I personally hate how the Hall of Fame politics are evolving. How players such as Mark McGwire are accused of juicing or other such means of gaining an edge, and withhold votes just because. How players such as Jim Rice are punished so severely that he gets elected only in the last year of prime eligibility, and by a dozen votes at that. How more executives and other personnel are not more recognized for their contributions. How some writers have turned in blank ballots. I won’t go into the well-worn topic that is the old Veterans Committee and their period of nepotism.
Here’s how I’d ideally have the process work:
Keep the official voting to 1 sportswriter, and 1 historian (suggested 20 years experience in local or national coverage for both) in every single city that has a minor league and major league sports team.
Lower the threshold for voting to 70% from 75%.
The sportswriter and historian cannot vote for a player that had once played in his locale or team. The player must have played elsewhere. Roger Clemens, for instance would not be voted upon by the representative writer or historian in New York, Houston, Boston, or Toronto.
Off the soapbox! Now to look at this year’s candidates. As usual, I draw upon the stats provided by Baseball-Reference.com , who have recently added Jeff Jawer’s JAWS statistic. For purposes of brief explanation, JAWS measures the best 7-year WAR (wins above replacement) run in a player’s career. WAR itself is a recent creation that measures the level of a player’s contribution to a team as compared to those who are below major league level. In past years I have added Bill James’ Monitor and Standards scores, along with his Black Ink and Grey Ink stats, and Baseball-Reference.com’s own usage of Bill James’s Similarity Scores, plus similarity scores of career at different ages.
This year I’ve decided to take into consideration the new JAWS stat, plus WAR individually. Along with JAWS there is a rank assigned to the better stats, broken down by position. This rank also goes into the mix. That’s a total of 9 stats to examine the 37 players on the writer’s ballot. I would give myself the opportunity to fill in all 10 spaces allotted to determine who belongs. I rank the top 10 stats in the 9 categories, count up who have the most top-10 placings, including ties for those who cross through the #10 rank (unless there is a large amount that puts the number well above 10 players). The 10 with the most top-10 placings are those whom I would vote for.
I also decided a slightly different path, in that I would group these stats together, and determine who had the most groups represented. All the Bill James stats (Black/Grey Ink, Monitor/Standards) are in Category 1, the JAWS/WAR stats in Category 2, the pair of Similarity scores plus the JAWS within position stat are in Category 3. If a players has at least half of the stats represented in the category, that’s one step closer than those without.
Now for the Top 10 in each of the categories between the 37 players, with the low threshold of the 10th-ranked player in parentheses:
Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa, Palmeiro, Schilling, McGwire, Biggio, Bagwell, Walker (148).
Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Bagwell, Walker, Bernie Williams, Biggio, Palmiero, Sosa, Edgar Martinez (50)
Clemens, Bonds, Schilling, McGwire, Dale Murphy, Sosa, Bagwell, Walker, David Wells, Mattingly (23)
Clemens, Bonds, Schilling, Jack Morris, Palmeiro, Bagwell, Murphy, Sosa, Wells, Walker (116)
Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Bagwell, Walker, Trammell, Raines, Palmeiro, Lofton, Martinez (64.4)
Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Bagwell, Walker, Trammell, Raines, Lofton, Martinez, Palmiero, Biggio (51.3)
JAWS rank per position
Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Bagwell, Raines, Lofton, Martinez, Walker, Trammell, Biggio (13)
9: Walker, Bonds, Clemens
The top 10 here are the ones I would vote for based on the individual 9 categories.
Category 1 (Bill James): Matching 4: Bagwell, Walker, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa. Matching 3: Palmeiro, Schilling. Matching 2 (and IN): McGwire, Murphy, Williams, Piazza, Biggio, Wells. Matching 1 (and OUT): Morris, Martinez, Mattingly.
Category 2: (WAR/JAWS stats): Matching 3: Bagwell, Raines, Trammell, Martinez, Walker, Palmeiro, Bonds, Clemens, Lofton, Boggia. Matching 2 (and OUT): Schilling, Boggia. Matching 1 (and OUT): Piazza.
Putting these categories together, here’s who ranked in the most of these 3 latter categories:
3: Walker, Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Biggio
1: (and OUT): Sosa, Schilling, McGwire, Murphy, Williams, Wells, Trammell, Martinez, Lofton
Those 9 players are the ones I would vote for based on the grouped categories.
Fitting both sets and IN: