The Heart of the Hall

Posted 07/06/2012 by sportsphd
Categories: Baseball

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Some topics are too fun to ignore.  Recently a number of my favorite baseball bloggers have been putting up their lists of the top 50 players who are already in the Hall of Fame.  As a baseball fan, naturally, I have a lot of thoughts on the topic.  I’ll use Verdun’s set up to list out my guys.  Tell me what you think.

1B: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig

2B: Eddie Collins, Charlie Gehringer, Rogers Hornsby, Napoleon LaJoie, Joe Morgan, Jackie Robinson

SS: Cal Ripken, Arky Vaughan, Honus Wagner, Robin Yount

3B: Wade Boggs, George Brett, Eddie Mathews, Mike Schmidt

LF: Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Carl Yaztrzemski

CF: Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Tris Speaker

RF: Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, Babe Ruth

C: Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra

P: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Bob Feller, Lefty Grove,  Christy Mathewson, Phil Niekro, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Warren Spahn, Walter Johnson, Cy Young

Negro Leaguers: Oscar Charleston, Martin DiHigo, Josh Gibson, John Henry Lloyd, Satchel Paige

It is a range of players, basically ignoring the 19th century.  There is certainly an argument against doing it that way, but I find it simpler to focus on the 20th century and beyond.  Cy Young is so good that I like on this list anyway.  I figured 10 pitchers would be fair representation along with 5 representatives of the Negro Leagues.  My next player off was Paul Molitor, and my next pitcher was Bob Gibson.  A final thought:  it is rough being a catcher.

The Drop Off to Second Best

Posted 09/14/2011 by sportsphd
Categories: Baseball, Statistics

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This morning Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted, “Because of the difference between Rivera and others at his position, for me, he should be part of NYY’ Rushmore, with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio.” I find this an interesting claim in a lot of ways. First note the 4 players: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Rivera. I would without a second thought shove Mantle ahead of both DiMaggio and Rivera. Second, I take his claim to be that the dropoff from Rivera to others refers to all other relievers, not just all other Yankee relievers. That follows an earlier tweet which said, “The difference between Rivera and any other player at his position in history is the greatest of any position.” That is a more interesting question. To get a quick and dirty look at the drop from the best to the second-best at various positions, I’m going to do a bit of fiddling with WAR, as measured on Baseball Reference. I will also summarily exclude 19th-Century Players. (This means I excluded both Cy Young and George Davis.) The method is simple: Take the WAR of player 2, divide it by player 1, and multiply by 100. This gives the second player’s production as a percentage of the first player. So, is the dropoff from Rivera the biggest? Let’s turn to the stats.


Player 1 WAR 1 Player 2 WAR 2 Percentage Total Drop
Gehrig 118.4 Foxx 95.2 80.41 23.2
Hornsby 127.8 Collins 126.7 99.14 1.1
Wagner 134.5 Ripken 89.9 66.84 44.6
Schmidt 108.3 Rodriguez 105 96.95 3.3
Ruth 190 Aaron 141.6 74.53 48.4
Cobb 159.5 Mays 154.7 96.99 4.8
Bonds 171.8 Musial 127.8 74.39 44
Bench 71.3 Fisk 67.3 94.39 4
W. Johnson 139.8 Clemens 128.8 92.13 11
Rivera 55.8 Gossage 39.5 70.79 16.3
Eckersley 58.3 Rivera 55.8 95.71 2.5
Rivera 55.8 Hoffman 30.4 54.48 25.4

First, these are full career WAR stats, so Ruth has a serious bump from being a pitcher, and Walter Johnson gets a nice little bump from his hitting. Second, I calculated relievers three different ways. First, I ran Rivera against Gossage, the two highest pitchers who accumulated almost all their WAR in relief. Next I did Rivera against Eckersley, because Eck had the highest WAR of any pitcher who is in the Hall of Fame as a reliever. Nonetheless, his WAR is so high because he gets a giant boost from all of his years as a starter. Finally I compared Rivera to the next highest modern closer, that is the highest WAR from a reliever since the advent of the modern closer circa 1980. That would be Trevor Hoffman. So where does this get us?

First, the drop at shortstop is gigantic. Even adding George Davis back in doesn’t help much. That is the lowest percentage drop among position players. Next, the drop from Ruth to Aaron is impressive. It is the largest raw WAR drop, and the third lowest percentage. Quite a drop considering this is Hank Aaron we are talking about. Finally, relievers are tricky. First, if Eckersley is included, Rivera isn’t the best ever. Next, if you include higher inning relievers from the 1970’s, the percentage is not the lowest, but it is second. Finally, if you limit Rivera to his most comparable group, other closers, you see Buster Olney’s point in big numbers. Rivera is nearly twice the pitcher of any other closer, when measured by WAR. I find that fact astonishing.

The MVP Races

Posted 08/19/2011 by sportsphd
Categories: Baseball

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

First, please stop by Seattle Sports Central to check out my new post on the future of the Mariners.

Now, let’s turn to the MVP race, following the same format as the last time, by looking at the race today, the race at season’s end, and my picks.


1. Curtis Granderson
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
3. Jose Bautista

Season’s End:
1. Dustin Pedroia
2. Curtis Granderson
3. Justin Verlander

My Picks:
1. Jose Bautista
2. Justin Verlander
3. Dustin Pedroia

Thoughts: I think that Granderson’s Yankee success would put him ahead at the moment, giving they lead the AL East, and he is the team’s only candidate. I think the Sox will win the division by season’s end, so that will drop him to number two. Pedroia strikes me as the Sox best pick, and he has put a number of key late-game hits that are important in creating an award-winning narrative. I think Verlander will carry the Tigers to the playoffs, and I was very tempted to make him my overall pick. Unfortunately, Bautista is again being forgotten, and he is the best hitter in baseball this year.


1. Justin Upton
2. Prince Fielder
3. Ryan Braun

Season’s End:
1. Justin Upton
2. Prince Fielder
3. Roy Halladay

My Picks:
1. Justin Upton
2. Ryan Braun
3. Matt Kemp

Thoughts: Justin Upton is having a great year on a surprising division leader. He cruises to the MVP if the Diamondbacks hold on, and giving the Giants’ bats, I think they will. Next come a pair of Brewers. Fielder has more home runs and RBI’s, and he could easily win the award. I think Braun is the better overall player. Kemp has had a fantastic year on an obscene team. I think he deserves an extra vote or two just for playing well on a team “owned” by Frank McCourt.

There are the MVP races. I am much more confident about the NL than the AL. The AL is especially fluid this year, and it could go a thousand different directions. Next up, a review of the book Strike Five.

A New Gig

Posted 08/17/2011 by sportsphd
Categories: Baseball

Tags: ,

I am now doing some occasional posting over at Seattle Sports Central. I write about the Mariners, which is often a depressing topic. But if you are interested, please wander over and check out my first post, an early look back at the Doug Fister trade. I will still post here as well; please stop back by toward the end of the week to see a book review, and eventually I will do a look at the MVP races, too.

The Awards Races, Part 1

Posted 08/11/2011 by sportsphd
Categories: Baseball

Tags: , , , , , , ,

This years is shaping up for a number of excellent awards races. I don’t think that any are firmly decided, unlike the various pennant races. I’ll start by putting up a top 3 in each category as I think they would finish if the vote was held today, a guess as to season-ending votes, and then my personal preferences. We’ll start with the Cy Young races today.

AL Cy Young –

1. Jered Weaver
2. Justin Verlander
3. C.C. Sabathia

Season’s End:
1. Justin Verlander
2. C.C. Sabathia
3. Jered Weaver

My picks:
1. Justin Verlander
2. C.C. Sabathia
3. Jered Weaver

Thoughts: I think that Weaver’s sub-2.00 ERA would win him the Cy Young if the vote was held today. I also think it will tick up above 2.00, and his case is substantially weaker without it. I expect Verlander and Sabathia to hold up better, as I don’t think either is really pitching over his head. For Sabathia to pull it out, I think he needs to beat the Red Sox at least once. That has become a storyline, and it hurts him. My pick: No one has dominated in the way Verlander has.

NL Cy Young:

1. Roy Halladay
2. Cole Hamels
3. Craig Kimbrel

Season’s End:
1. Cole Hamels
2. Roy Halladay
3. Clayton Kershaw

My Picks:
1. Roy Halladay
2. Cliff Lee
3. Cole Hamels

Thoughts: At the moment, Halladay leads the league in wins and is second in ERA by .03. That should secure the award for him. I think Kimbrel, with his league-leading saves total as a rookie would do surprisingly well. If anyone passes him, his support collapses. I think that Hamels will sneak ahead by season’s end because of the general share-the-wealth principal. Halladay hasn’t been much better, and he won last year. For me, I love all of Lee’s shutouts, and he was pulled an inning short of sixth last night, but they still don’t quite match up to Halladay’s consistency overall. And, wow, the Phillies can pitch.

Loving the Twins and Tim Wakefield

Posted 08/09/2011 by sportsphd
Categories: Baseball

Tags: , , , , , ,

My favorite players are Twins.  My all-time favorite was Kirby Puckett, followed ever so slightly by Roy Smalley.  My next favorite players include Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, and Joe Mauer.  I’m a Twins fan to the core, and unsurprisingly all of my favorite players have spent significant chunks of their career with the franchise.  But if you move into that benighted circle of those who have never been graced by a Twins uniform, all is not darkness and despair.  And in this realm full of non-Twins, written about extensively by such famous sports journalists as Dante Alighieri, my favorite player, for years, has been Tim Wakefield.

Last night, Wakefield pursued his elusive 200th victory against God’s elect, getting a lead in the eight on an error by the aforementioned Joe Mauer.  In a year in which the Twins are disastrously bad, it was easy, for a single night, to hope for Wakefield’s triumph, and I would be thrilled to welcome him to the 200-win club.  Unfortunately, his bullpen blew it in the bottom of the eighth, delaying his quest for 200 for another start.

What’s not to like about Wakefield?  He had the misfortune of joining the Pirates just as the franchise collapsed, and he did not start his career until age 25.  He lost part of his best season to the strike in 1995.  In that season, he went 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA (165 ERA+).  He finished third in AL Cy Young voting, behind his polar opposite, Randy Johnson.  Without the strike he would already have 200 wins.  His best playoff run was in the ALCS in 2003, when he went 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings.   But the 5.65 ERA of Pedro Martinez, the 6.43 ERA of Derek Lowe, and the 7.36 ERA of John Burkett kept the Yankees in the series, leading to Wakefield’s one bad pitch to Aaron Boone.

Through it all, Wakefield kept pitching.  He is now 45, and he has pitched for 19 seasons despite his late call-up.  He is now third on the Red Sox all-time wins list, second in games pitched, first in innings, second in strikeouts, and as any good knuckleballer should be, first in wild pitches by nearly 50.  He has been a model of class and skill.  He will never touch the Hall of Fame and shouldn’t.  But I hope that people will remember one of my all-time favorites, even if he never was a Twin.  May God have mercy on his soul despite that.

Restarting the Blog

Posted 08/08/2011 by sportsphd
Categories: Baseball

I think I will restart this blog over the course of the next week.  I have finally made progress on the PhD listed in the blog’s title, and I now have only to complete dissertation revisions and complete a defense before I move from The Sports PhD ABD to the The Sports PhD.  Given that, I have some more time to devote to blogging.  I have noticed than many, if not most, of my links are no good.  If you happen to see this and have an updated link, please send them to me.  I will try to get the site fully functional shortly, and then I will turn to various topics near and dear to my heart, such as award predictions, Elston Howard, why the Twins are so bad, and Edgar Martinez.  I look forward to having some more interactions with readers and commenters.