The Influence of Bill James
In 1994, Bill James published his influential book on the baseball Hall of Fame, The Politics of Glory. (The book has been renamed and republished under the title Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?) James is widely credited for revolutionizing statistical approaches to baseball analysis and bringing sabermetric stats to a much wider audience. But I want to focus on specific measurable impact. In The Politics of Glory, James posited that a variety of different players should be considered the players most deserving of election to the Hall. How have these players done since his book’s publication?
By position, these are his top 3 among players retired before the 1994 season:
C – Joe Torre/Carlton Fisk (2000), Ted Simmons
1B – Tony Perez (2000), Orlando Cepeda (1999), Dick Allen
2B – Bid McPhee (2000)/Cupid Childs, Buddy Myer
3B – George Brett (1999), Mike Schmidt (1995), Darrell Evans
SS – George Davis (1998), Bill Dahlen, Ed McKean
LF – Bob Johnson, Jim Rice (2009), Al Oliver
CF – George Van Haltren, Jimmy Ryan, Richie Ashburn (1995)
RF – Dwight Evans, Dave Parker/Mike Tiernan
P – Don Sutton (1998), Nolan Ryan (1999), Phil Niekro (1997)
11 of James’ top 27 players, when considered position by position, have been elected in the last 15 years, a success rate of 41%. Given that James stops short of calling for all of these names to be inducted, this impact on the Hall of Fame is especially noteworthy. Only six players eligible for his lists have been selected in the same period, Vic Willis, Jim Bunning, Nellie Fox, Robin Yount, Bill Mazeroski, and Gary Carter. Given that all three of his proposed pitchers have been elected and that he speaks highly of both Willis and Bunning, they do not serve to disprove his influence.