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Do Hall of Fame Voters Understand the Game?
2009-01-13 19:00
by Scott Long
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

Let me begin by sharing this little nugget.  Jim Rice was my favorite player during the time of his career.  I can remember when he came up with the Red Sox in 1975 and believing, despite Fred Lynn winning the rookie of the year, that Rice would have won it, if not getting hurt in September  I am not an unbiased person when it comes to his candidacy.  Despite all these wistful feelings for him, I realize that Rice was not a Hall of Fame player. 

It really comes down to this for me.  His home splits kept him at a higher respect level than he truly deserved.  His OPS in Fenway was .920, which during the time period was automatic Cooperstown numbers.  It is on the road, where his OPS was .789 that changes the equation.  A corner OF/DH with these numbers is just not good enough.  Even his tracking stats aren't enough, as he didn't have 400 homers and didn't have a lifetime BA over .300.  As a player, he reminds me of Albert Belle.  A power-htter who intimated with his bat and his disdane for the media, but a player who ultimately fell short of Hall of Fame numbers.  Of course, now he's in, so it just goes down as another example of the HOF voters blowing it. 

(A note on Home/Away Splits: I believe they are the most underused statistic in baseball.   Where it is really hard to judge players from one time period to another, it is much easier to see who was underrated and who was overrated by looking at their home/away splits.  Cub fans, check out Milton Bradley this way.  His road split for 2008 was very similar to what he has done his whole career.  There is a reason that Michael Young isn't as hot of a commodity in the trade market.  His road OPS during his career is .just 728.  Last year I discussed how the topic of Josh Hamilton being the AL MVP was completely wrong-headed, considering how much worse he was away from hitting heaven in Arlington.  (OPS was .200 points lower on the road.) 

The biggest travesty of the 2009 HOF voting was how Rickey Henderson didn't even get 95% of the votes.  Someone needs to do a personal investigation on this one, as Rickey was the greatest lead-off man since Ty Cobb.  Some might argue that hey, what's the big deal, he still got most of the votes, but that misses the point.  There is not one person who shouldn't have voted for him.  His value to the teams he played for should have made him a unanimous choice.  I realize that no one has ever gotten that high of a number, but for more than 5% of the voters to leave him off should be enough to have their membership revoked.  Hopefully they work for one of the papers that will be folded by next year.  Of course, the value of a great leadoff man has always been underrated.  If you don't believe me, look at the miserable voting record for Tim Raines, who should already be in Cooperstown. 

I have written before on this subject, so I don't want to spend a bunch of time revisiting my reasoning. If you want to know more specifics on who should be included, check out this piece from 2006 and add Raines to the list and take-off Gossage, who was put in last year. 

 

Comments
2009-01-13 20:59:31
1.   Bluebleeder87
career overview: League leading statistics

Reference: Baseball-Reference.com Leader and Record Board Index

* Led the National League in batting average in 1986 (.334), the third switch hitter to win the NL batting title
* Led the National League in on base percentage in 1986 (.413)
* Led the major leagues in stolen bases in 1981 (71) and 1984 (75)
* Led the National League in stolen bases in 1982 (78) and 1983 (90)
* Led the major leagues in runs scored in 1983 (133) and 1987 (123)
* Led the National League for times on base in 1983 (282), 1984 (281), and 1986 (274)
* Led the National League in outfield assists in 1983 (21)
* Tied for the National League lead in double plays by an outfielder in 1985 (4)
____

No kidding. I didn't realize Timothy Raines had a riffle arm...

2009-01-13 21:26:08
2.   Scott Long
And to think that some of this was achieved with a vile of cocaine in his backpocket. Give it up for Rock.
2009-01-13 22:35:22
3.   Samhain
"Do HOF Voters Understand the Game?"
I'd say that many of them are idiot savants when it comes to baseball in general, and HOF qualifications specifically.

Just because someone's good at something like baseball doesn't mean they're any good thinking about quantifying baseball achievement. (Or any good thinking at all, actually.)

But you knew that. Your title of this blog is clearly rhetorical.

2009-01-13 22:37:54
4.   Samhain
By the way 3 : a "vile" of cocaine. I like it.
Very appropriate typo for "vial"...
2009-01-13 22:40:53
5.   Samhain
Arrgh. 4 referred to 2 , not 3 .

( I was 3 )

2009-01-14 03:48:38
6.   Josh Wilker
I totally agree on Tim Raines.

As for the home/road thing: Jay Jaffe (actually a Rice detractor) had this to say when considering Rice, "Taking advantage of one's home park is no crime; quite the contrary, most great sluggers get such a boost." Jaffe goes into the subject here:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=6556

Also, regarding Ty Cobb: I am pretty sure, despite where we might want to place him in a "dream lineup," that he was a middle of the order guy, not a leadoff man, when he played.

2009-01-14 12:10:36
7.   Scott Long
I can't name another slugger in the Hall of Fame with a worse resume than Rice. Sure there are a few non-sluggers who have less of a reason to be in Cooperstown, but not sluggers. I loved the guy when he played, but he doesn't belong in. I disagree somewhat with Jaffe on this one.

In regards to Cobb, let me offer up a few rebuttals to your point.

Yeah well what do you know?

Uh, I knew that...I was just checking to see if people were paying attention.

Cobb did hit leadoff a few times in his career, so I'm counting him there. Of course, he pitched a few times too, so I guess if you are taking overall value, that would make him the greatest Tiger pitcher of all-time. Logic, smogic.

Damn you, Wilker!

2009-01-14 14:32:12
8.   Josh Wilker
7 : I think Rice can hold his own with Cepeda, but please don't correct me if I'm wrong; I need to hold onto something of my boyhood idolization of Rice.

As for Cobb and the leadoff thing, I already got my comeuppance for being a smartypants here; in a post I did on leadoff guys I have already been questioned on two of the guys I named as primarily leadoff guys, Jackie Robinson and Paul Molitor.

2009-01-14 15:56:01
9.   chris in illinois
8 RE: Molitor and Robinson---Just my opinion, but I fail to see much difference between a number 1 hitter and a number 2 hitter. The job is the same---get on base for the big guys.

Why are these guys referred to as 'table-setters'? What are the 3-4-5 guys then, 'table-clearers', 'eaters of the food' or 'tablecloth pullers'?? Weird phrase, that.

2009-01-14 17:57:09
10.   Scott Long
Cepeda does have the most similar stats and he also makes my point. His OPS was within 15 points of each other road/home. He didn't get the advantage that Rice had in Fenway. He also played during the worst period in modern times as a hitter. (63-73)

Remember Josh, Rice was my favorite player growing up, so I have no glee in putting this out there.

2009-01-14 18:25:08
11.   Tom Meagher
Home/road splits are good, but keep in mind that a single player's split should not be compared to other players' overall lines. Of course a player looks worse if you take away the home-field advantage but compare them to players overall lines, which generally have more home-field advantaged PA than road PA. Not that Rice looked all that great against his contemporaries' road numbers, but that should be the standard, not their overall numbers.

And what, exactly, is to be suggested by saying Milton Bradley's .290/.410/.462 road line was quite similar to his whole career? That he's been a really good hitter? I guess the Cubs should have held out for Nick Markakis, the only AL hitter with a higher road OBP.

2009-01-14 21:43:09
12.   Scott Long
Good point on Bradley. My point is that his home numbers were off the chart, not that he wasn't a good player. Ultimately, it was not one of my better examples.

3 things with Rice and why he shouldn't be in the Hall.

1. His overall numbers are questionable.
2. His counting numbers are not good enough.
3. His home/road splits are extremely skewed.

The Home/away numbers are important to consider, especially when we have future players like Larry Walker and Todd Helton coming up in future ballots. (Don't forget that Walker won 7 golden gloves and a MVP award.) Their Coors Field home/away splits were enormous and should be enough to keep them out. Looking at their careers, though, it is hard to say Rice should be in over a Walker. While many will acknowledge that Coors Field was a huge offensive advantage for Rockies players, just as close of detail should be done in regards to other players who derived huge hitting advantages in their home parks.

Oh and while we're contemplating defense as part of the equation, should the voters put Dwight Evans in instead of Jim Rice. Their offensive numbers are very similar.

By the way, go to my new site where this piece is written the same, but at the end there is a happy ending.
http://nsfwsports.wordpress.com/

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